Sarah Booker

03/05/2010

Confessions of an election geek

The first election I remember was in 1979.  It was when Mr Callahan stopped being Prime Minister and Mrs Thatcher took over. It was exciting to see a woman in charge, and amused by people chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out out out”, within days of her arrival.

I recall with fondness the Spitting Image election special of 1987, and, I think, the 1992 election night with Armondo Ianucci with a choir performing television news theme tunes. Or was it 1997? That was the  last election I watched on TV . I kept promising myself I would go to bed, but it was just too interesting.

The last two general elections I have been at the count. It was a childhood dream. I always enjoyed going along to the polling station with my parents, and have always voted with enthusiasm. However, this count will be different because this is the social media election.

Five years ago the newspaper I worked on didn’t have a website. Now, as digital editor for the Worthing Herald series I have encouraged reporters to use Scribblelive during hustings, giving readers the chance to watch from home, and participate.

A few of the candidates standing in the four constituencies the group covers have Twitter accounts. All bar one have a website, blog and Facebook presence.  All four seats are pretty safe Conservative ones.

This is where I’m lucky. I live in Brighton Pavilion, a constituency where Labour have been in power since 1997, taking over from the Conservatives, with a council where the Greens are the biggest group. All three parties are fighting to take the seat. It’s the Green’s number 1 target, hence Green leader and MEP Caroline Lucas is standing.

I can watch Tweets from the three main candidates throughout the day, every day.

The bulk of election literature we have received has been Green and Labour. The occasional bit of Conservative has arrived and one general piece of Liberal Democrat. Brighton Blogger and Labour Party activist Dan Wilson has written an interesting blog about Brighton politics, What does the LibDem surge mean in Brighton Pavilion? Brighton ought to be a Lib Dem stronghold, but it seems Lewes and Eastbourne have greater potential on that front.

Back to the point. I have uploaded photographs of leaflets to The Straight Choice.org. The majority have been either Labour or Green.  I started uploading after the Brighton Future of News Group meeting with Richard Pope, one of the founders of The Straight Choice, spoke to Brighton Future of News Group. Comparing party leaflets in different post code areas, across the country, and at varying times during the campaign.

Inspired by Richard’s presentation, I promoted the idea on the Worthing Herald website resulting in the first leaflets uploaded for the constituencies.

During this bank holiday weekend I’ve taken the process one step further by taking photographs of every campaign poster I’ve seen while walking around Brighton. I had planned to do it once when I walked to visit friends in Hove, before meeting another friend in the city centre. It was a circular walk back home. The number of Green Party posters I saw was astounding. The idea was inspired by a Tweet from @mockduck to @jowadsworth

This exercise prompted me to walk around where I live and map the photographs.  The resulting mass of green makes Thursday’s result an interesting prospect.

I’ll be spending Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning at Lancing Leisure Centre, waiting for the results of the East Worthing and Shoreham and Worthing West constituencies, but at least this time I can keep track of everywhere else online.

I’ll be using Scribblelive and Qik to bring live text and video from the count, and publicising the result online as it happens.

14/03/2010

Brighton Future of News election special #bfong

Brighton Future of News Group has an election theme for the second meeting on Monday, March 22.

Web developer Richard Pope will be talking about his work with Democracy Club, The Straight Choice and My Society.

I am an election geek living in a constituency where a three-horse race is developing between Nancy Platts (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Charlotte Vere (Conservative).

Sorry Bernadette Millam (Liberal Democrat) and Nigel Carter (UKIP), but it’s true.

All three have been campaigning. As a resident I’ve been aware of Nancy Platts beavering away in the background for a year or so now.  Charlotte Vere seems to have taken up a Saturday morning residency in London Road and Caroline Lucas has also been spotted.

One of the ideas suggested at the first Brighton Future of News Group was a candidate tracking Google map. Jo Wadsworth, web editor of the Brighton Argus had the Brighton Pavilion map up within a few days.

This is the sort of innovative idea that can come out of an event where journalists, bloggers and technical wizards can get together.

Personally, I’m very interested in The Straight Choice, and have started collecting up the few election leaflets my partner hasn’t thrown straight into the recycling.

Once this election is over it will be interesting to see the stories arising from the literature targeting our votes.

Join in the discussion at The Skiff at 7.30pm for a prompt start.

Your hosts are Judith Townend from Journalism.co.uk and me.

Brighton Future of News Group is open to all with an interest in news and journalism, from broadcasters to bloggers, PRs to podcasters, programmers, students, writers, journalists and all media folk.

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