Pushing the agenda: politicians as columnists

It was recently questioned by one of my colleagues whether politicians who are still holding office should write columns in newspapers. His argument was, with specific reference to Boris Johnson’s column in the Telegraph, that a politicians remarks are greatly influenced by his or her current political affiliations and thus the columnist cannot be said to be practicing unbiased journalism.

This colleague went further, saying that he could not ‘trust’ Mayor Johnson as a journalist, and that he ‘switched off’ as he was reading the piece when it became clear that he was pushing his own agenda.

It seems obvious to me that in general columnists are constantly pushing their own agenda, or if not this then certainly personal views, and cannot be said to be unbiased. I do not read columns as examples of neutral reporting, quite the opposite and I often glean more enjoyment from a piece pushing an agenda which I am strongly opposed to. It gives me a chance to rant and scoff and all those things which a young journalist enjoys indulging in, as well as allowing me to consider an alternative viewpoint.

Personally, I think it is a great shame more politicians don’t have columns, or perhaps, write blogs. It seems an obvious arena for well thought out agenda pushing. I presume the majority, if not all, of the people that read a politicians blog will be aware of their political alliances. These shouldn’t be read as a means of employing subversive tactics to brainwash the reader, they should be read as another, perhaps more transparent and honest approach by the politician in communicating with the interested reading public.

When all we often receive from politicians is ‘sound-bites’, it is actually enlightening to see a carefully considered and crafted piece of writing which allows us to engage with them on our own turf, as it were. If only more politicians were more open about their personal opinions in columns and blogs then there may be an environment of trust, rather than caution.

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