Saturday, April 24, 2010

today : A face in the misty light

One of the very few winners in the election campaign is, in my 'umble opinion, the BBCs Laura Kuenssberg. In the realm of political reporting recently she has really managed to shine.

I think her gender and age has something to do with it. You only have to look at the debates. Sky's debate featured four middle aged public schoolboys - two of whom, Clegg and Adam Boulton, are alumni of the same school, Westminster. I wonder if Laura presents politicians with a different prospect than the self-satisfied, clubby types who seem to dominate political reporting.

Boulton, Andrew Neil, Nick Robinson, Andrew Marr et al are all of a rather traditional type. White middle class Oxbridge boys with a background in newspapers. All members of the same self-perceived heavyweights club as many of the politicians they are dealing with. Watch Neil on The Daily Politics and he constantly plays alpha male to his always female sidekicks, despite their own credentials. Anita Anand and Shelagh Fogerty are no airheads yet Neil can never let them be anything other than subservient, as he chums along with his politician mates. It would not be too shocking if he asked them to go make a cup of tea luv. Like the others Neil seems to approach interviewees rather pugilistically.

But Laura is a different and welcome proposition. A smart and confident young woman. As the BBC trumpets the 'clarity' of its election coverage (would that they were focusing on brevity), it is she whom incisively and clearly explains the issues in a way that is neither patronising to her topic or the viewer, or flying off into those strange flights of metaphor that so many correspondents use to try and trumpet their own cleverness. It is she who interviews with subtlety and precision, never appearing to try and impose her opinion on the subject and utilising the lack of flying testosterone to her and the viewers' advantage.

Nobody should be surprised. The world is packed with intelligent and highly capable women both young and old. But news, like politics rarely reflects this. Both are way behind where they should be. News still generally treats its women as eye candy (even though, thankfully in Britain, we have not succumbed to the non-journalist bimbo presenter model) and leaves the 'important' stuff - such as anchoring elections - to the old boys. Laura is an example of why this is an outmoded notion. Who knows, maybe they'll even allow her on screen once she hits 45.

* I know I said I wouldn't write about the election but this isn't really about the election, I think.

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