Reviewing the UKs coverage of the presidential primaries

Press-Gazette (U.K.), January 2008

By Marty Karlon

I don’t normally look to the UK for coverage of the New Hampshire presidential primary. After all, when former President Bill Clinton is campaigning for his wife at the high school across the street from my home – as he did on Saturday – I can rely on my own eyes and ears.

However, a peek at the online coverage of the primary by several major British news websites – Guardian Unlimited, Telegraph.co.uk, Mail Online, Times Online.co.uk, Sun Online, Sky.com/news and the BBC News website – was a worthwhile experience.

The reporting hit all the pertinent angles and was comparable to that of the major American news outlets. Times Online, however, raised the issue of race more than most of the American media, but did it in a way that wasn’t inflammatory, and added valuable context to the shifting dynamics of the campaign. On the other end of the depth spectrum, The Daily Mail’s website, which had by far the least coverage, gained a few points in my book for the attitude in its reporting.

But while the big picture was there, none of the coverage really captured the chaos, the uncertainty, and the fabric of what New Hampshire was like in those final days. In other words, UK readers got a clear picture of what happened – and why – but they didn’t get a feel for what it was actually like to live through those five days between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, when candidates’ fortunes rose and fell almost hourly, and the energy was palpable.

In terms of interactive features, I found much to like. Guardian Unlimited’s “Race to Super Tuesday” put the early races in perspective in an easy to follow way. Sky News’s site provided good videos, along with a well-done interactive primary map.

The BBC’s coverage was uniquely strong in that it offered a lot of depth for someone with the time and interest to spend, but also packaged its content in small, digestible layers so that a time-starved online user could soak up a lot in just a quick visit.

Living in New Hampshire, I also really enjoyed the Beeb’s Voters’ Views feature, which, while not scientific, did the best job of capturing the zeitgeist of the New Hampshire electorate.

With the exception of Telegraph.co.uk’s Trail Mix 2008, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the blogs I read, which tended to be short on analysis (and wit), and long on links to the usual US journalistic suspects – New York Times, Huffington Post, Politico, and so on. There is a lot of good political reporting coming out of New Hampshire, where veteran reporters are as knowledgeable – and better connected – than the national media. Access to that kind of local perspective would have been valuable to readers in the UK (and would still be useful to incorporate as the primaries roll into other states).

Finally, when I clicked on the US Elections page link on The Sun Online I didn’t get to any articles. Instead it took me to the wrestling page in the sport section.

I’m not sure if it was a coding glitch, or some sort of statement on what folks in the UK really think of our political system.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s