How do you do your job when every week you get a report on how much people like you? Because that’s what this constant polling about preferred prime minister is about: likeability. It has to be, because political reporting is all about personality and not substance, so how would you know if a leader is doing a good job?
These polls from Newspoll (News Ltd generating its own news) and Herald-Nielsen (Fairfax generating its own news) and Essential Media (Channel 10 generating its own news) are driving me mad. We’re not in an election campaign so what’s the point of weekly updates about whether people would vote for Labor if Kevin Rudd was in charge? Or the Coalition if Malcolm Turnbull was in charge? Seriously, what is the actual point of asking people these questions at this time? It makes just as much sense as asking people if they’d like a million bucks, and then making the results front page news (mind you, news.com.au and dailytelegraph.com.au would run that story because wah-hey, it’s wacky and zany and light-hearted). Let the parties do their own polling on these questions and sort it out amongst themselves. The only time these constant questions about leadership would be relevant is if someone was challenging the leader, or if one of the leaders was grossly incompetent. And as much as I dislike Tony Abbott, he’s not incompetent. Grossly opportunistic and mean-spirited, sure. But not grossly incompetent.
Before you have a go at me about censoring the news and/or withholding information from the audience, ask yourself this: How important is it, two years out from an election, to have weekly updates of voting intentions? Sure, chuck the info in at the end of another political story, but the polling shouldn’t be the only story. There is only so much space in the newspapers and bulletins for political news and every time news editors run these meaningless stories, we – their audience – miss out on something important or useful or relevant.
Political journalists are obsessed with the Gillard/Rudd story and the Gillard/Abbott story because they think it makes them insiders, like they know all the gossip, but it’s pretty meaningless as far as real news goes. I believe that news should be useful, otherwise it might as well be Home and Away or Angry Birds. The shit that’s laughably called serious political journalism is not useful. Focussing on the personalities and not the substance of policy and debate means that when the next election is held – and you know we’re in for weekly popularity polling for the next two years – we’ll just be voting on which leader we like the best, and not which party’s ideas are best for the country (yeah, yeah, I know I’m an idealist). And it will be all the MSM’s fault.