Election diary from Sky's Jeremy Thompson

Thompson: caught in media blitz

 

FRIDAY

Drove straight to Pennsylvania to shoot early this morning. With security being such a big factor I thought it would be interesting to find out how much of an impact it had had, particularly in one of the sites that became synonymous with 9/11 when Flight 93 came down in a very remote and rural area. It was a swing state but also had seen the War on Terror come to its own back yard.

It’s Republican and Bush country, but there’s no doubt that having a hijacked plane plummeting into a hole in the ground in your own backyard does bring it home to people who would otherwise be a million miles away from the war on terror and Iraq.

It was a good way to kick off. It’s always useful when you are going to end up anchoring to talk to as many people as possible and feel the mood.

SATURDAY

This election is a blitz of media coverage, a blizzard of campaign ads, a snowstorm of newspaper headlines.

You get the feeling it must have enveloped just about every American.

Back in Washington for what was mainly a reading day with some live programming at midday for the Live at Five programme and then at 6pm and 7pm. The Osama tape caused quite a frisson of excitement when it was broadcast.

It was almost like a third candidate had come on the scene. He could cost either Bush or Kerry votes and you felt he stuck his nose in their race. In the last few days it’s about the candidates trying to avoid banana skins and they both seem to have done that remarkably well. I thought Osama was potentially the biggest banana skin that had been thrown in front of them and they fairly carefully tiptoed around it without saying too much about it.

SUNDAY

I began doing more presentation from the studio on a rooftop overlooking the White House, doing fuller coverage at the top of the programmes at 5, 6, 7 and 8pm, and 10pm local time.

Talking to our correspondents, they all seem to think that the Osama tape hadn’t had that huge an impact and that people haven’t been swayed by it.

It was a great talking point, but it doesn’t seem to be having that much impact. Looking at the newspapers, the websites, the blogs and TV confirms your impression that US presidential elections are a splendid orgy of bad-mouthing, mud-slinging chicanery, trickery and deception.

Watching the attack ads, it always strikes me that it’s a mighty strange way to choose the man who has the most powerful office in the world.

I really wonder if UK politicians would get away with the same kind of attacks. It’s incredible too that four years ago the word blog didn’t exist.

There are so many now, including one called voterorgasm.com, a website which encourages young people to withhold sex for the next four years from those people who don’t vote.

MONDAY

Started at 10am for the 3pm hour and went all the way through and did every hour until 11pm. We did a big chunk of every hour, interviewing various correspondents around the States, and I introduced my story about Flight 93 and then in the back half of the hour had the guests in.

Washington is a real insider’s town.

There is no reason for DC to be here apart from as the capital of America. It lives, breathes and eats politics and everyone here is either in it, writing about, lobbying it, being lawyers for it or servicing it by running government departments, and the diners and restaurants. Everybody is focused and knowledgeable about politics: there are no weak guests. Most of them are TV-wise, there are very few who haven’t been on a show, had their own show or been a regular. You don’t get shy, retiring pundits: you get people who come out punching their weight and it makes very good TV.

Last election I was on a rooftop a hundred yards from where we are this time, and suddenly to be involved in this incredible drama that unfolded, watching the networks calling it and getting it wrong, then withdrawing their calls and calling the other way and suddenly being aware that democracy was almost coming apart at the seams and America was genuinely shocked and taken aback by this extraordinary turn of events.

Four years on I know that the media are going to be desperately cautious when it comes to calling it. Last time they were still in this very competitive mode of trying to beat each other on air to be the first to call the results. Tomorrow I’ll be on air from 7pm local time and go on through sunrise with Julie Etchingham.

I was on air for 36 hours covering the last election – we don’t know how long it will be this time. Much as I like the idea of another Florida from a journalistic point of view, it would be quite nice if somebody stopped it before it went into weeks of legal argument.

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY

Thompson was still on air to report Bush’s narrow victory as Press Gazette was going to press…

Sky News presenter Jeremy Thompson was speaking to Julie Tomlin

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