How regional newspapers could tip the balance in UK's close-fought general election

It has been argued that regional coverage of the 2015 election could be a decisive factor in almost 200 marginal seats across the country.

Annabelle Dickson, political editor for the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglican Daily Times, speaking at a debate on local media and the election, said: “If we take seats with majorities of 10 per cent or less that require a swing of five per cent for the incumbent party to lose, then there are currently 194 such marginal seats in Britain.

“So it is local campaigns that are going to matter, and by definition the local media covering these battles on a daily or weekly basis.”

On his blog, Trinity Mirror digital publishing director David Higgerson wrote: “Since the start of the year, there have been many predictions about what this election is going to be remembered for. Some say it’s the first video election, others that it’s the social media election. Both are important, but for the regional press, this general election isn’t about a platform, it’s about the ability to hold politicians to account on behalf of the largest audiences we’ve had for decades.

“The scale and reach of readerships is a powerful thing to have, but it comes with responsibility. Only foolish politicians will ignore it. And should the regional press not live up to expectations, there are many others out there for the politically engaged to turn to.

“It is in everyone’s interests for as many people as possible to vote. By using our enlarged readership as a powerful platform to hold politicians to account, we can provide readers with the information which could reconnect them with the electoral process.”

Last month, the Yorkshire Post published its Yorkshire Manifesto in a 16-page supplement which aims to represent the views of its readers.

It also published their Battlegrounds Map, an interactive map displaying which party won in each constituency alongside information of their majority and a brief explanation of why the seat may be important in the 2015 election.

Similarly, the KM Group of newspapers published a poll of 1,000 voters views, which identified their key questions and concerns ahead of the May 7 election and Trinity Mirror published election manifestos for 24 of its titles after more than 18,000 voters responded to an online survey.

Other publishers have instead decided to produce online tools to help readers decide who to vote for.

Local World published a General Election Compass, an interactive survey which tells readers which political party they are closest to after they share their views on a range of issues, such as tax, immigration, Europe, public spending and the party leaders.

Trinity Mirror has launched a similar online tool called Find My Seat which shows readers how their communities compare to the national average on statistics divided into four main groups, the economy, cost of living, immigration and pensions.

Some 24 regional newspaper titles published by Trinity Mirror have also published election manifestos.

The “Election Demands” focus on the national and local issues identified in a survey of 18,000 readers.

In the marginal constituency of Lincoln, local news website The Lincolnite crowd sourced the top five questions their readers had for MP candidates. It then invited the candidates to answer questions, which they streamed live on Periscope and later uploaded to YouTube. After the debate, the title invited its readers to vote on who had the best answers.

Johnston Press launched a video-based election website What Matters to Me, which features short videos of people describing what matters to them. Users are invited to share and “upvote” videos.

It  teamed up with Twitter to feature the hashtag #WhatMattersToMe at the top of Twitter’s promotional feed for a whole day. A Johnston Press statement said the joint venture will highlight “the local and national isues that really matter to people ahead of the election.”

 

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