The first election campaign with no reporters

The first election campaign with no reporters
The 2015 local election campaign in Albania, in the majority of cases, was reported by the very staffs of candidates and political parties, rather than journalists.
Although Albania has over 60 television stations and the capital is home to five broadcasters that air news around the clock for 24 hours, campaign stories prepared by reporters during the 30 days of the election campaign could be counted with the fingers of one hand.
During a television interview at the conclusion of the campaign, the country’s Prime Minister himself ironically answered the interviewer: “I haven’t seen any reporter in electoral events!”
“As I sit down to finish my story, I look up and see the news in another television station. They have done my story.” How is it possible for someone to do precisely the same story, especially with the same audio and video?
How is it possible that “news” from one station to the other look like “sheep sheared by the very same shepherd?” The campaign that just concluded was the first one to mark a novelty in media-politics relations: Politics no longer needs reporters. Politics now does the reporting itself. Reporters receive e-mails that have ready-to-air “footage and sound bites” from the meeting of X … and a link to the video material on “We transfer…’ In the best case scenario, experienced reporters sit down in front of their computer, take the text and try to pick “sound bites,” but in most cases, the parties have prepared the TV stories and the broadcasters, now turned into video libraries, only have to air them.
One typical campaign story is the party candidate/chairman with an “anonymous” microphone in his hand, the background chosen for television effect, footage done by a crane camera and lenses that make it seem as if there are thousands of people attending the meeting. Although you zap across five news channels that broadcast non-stop, or even the main broadcasters, you see the very same footage, hear the same sound bites, and the sole concern for Electoral Elections Commission is: “airtime balance?!”
There is extreme abuse of the Electoral Code article that “forces” television stations to accept material from candidates. At least, the article says that when material is submitted, this should be made clear for the viewer too. What practically happens is HYPOCRISY! Among the hundreds of television stories, not a single one bears the mark showing it was submitted by the SP/LSI/PDIU, etc.
The public has no idea the parties have begun to report on themselves. Even in live reporting…the story is the same: everything is controlled and packaged in every detail.
One of the reasons why television debates are missing is the total lack of control over what the debate might produce, the fear that a face-off could produce unpleasant things.
The naked truth is that there are no reporters in campaign events. The media does not report – it is just a conveyer belt.
A veteran journalist from Korça, one of the best I have known, of the type who is classy and reports the same for a newspaper and for radio or television, on sports events or fine political machinations, on complicated court cases or stark social topics, told me sincerely that “he is more scared when he reports on the campaign than when he reports a serious crime or a corrupt affair.”
Even in those cases when local reporters go to cover the event, they are politely sent back with the promise “we’ll send you the material without delay.” In the absence of reporters, it would be no surprise if you heard promises of the type “we’ll reinstate national pride,” “we shall be reborn,” “we shall do away with evil,” “we’ll reduce the price of electricity” etc., etc.
In the absence of reporters in the field, the basic elements of reporting rallies are lacking. Number of participants? Local people or persons brought in by buses? Were they paid and who paid for their transport? Conveyed messages? Cost of promises?
It is easier to find a needle in the hay than to find the voice of voters in an electoral campaign. In the absence of reporters, promises abound without any limit and lies and manipulations turn into news stories.
In the absence of reporters, the arrogance of political power is on the rise and that is the reason why in a rare occasion you find a reporter asking the right question: the candidate is so baffled that he looks like a young cow that went to the wrong barn door.
One week before voting day, the only new thing that will be remembered is that it was politics that produced the news, it was politics that decided the order of news, and the media simply served these to the public as its own “produce.” That’s the only case when politics does not mind copyright limits.
*The article was originally written for and published by .


Media Integrity