Can Twitter, Paper.li and other social media help connect with voters and ensure they get accurate information during an election campaign? The recent election for Mayor of London says, Yes, it can. Throughout the campaign many bloggers including me, published internet papers. Like them, I published The Boris Johnson Times, tweeted and blogged and I believe it all contributed to Boris’s re-election on May 3. The paper was edited independently of the campaign team so that the news was varied and interesting but — most importantly — accurate and truthful. The idea to start the Paper.li came from Boris, who has been a fan of social media for a while. I had campaigned for him in 2006/2007 but I wasn’t on Twitter. We used leafleting and blogging, but it was difficult to keep track of misleading or wrong information given to voters and to correct it.
By 2012 I was a confirmed tweeter and I loved it. Suddenly it was a whole new ballgame. We could see in real-time what information was coming into the public domain and – if it was incorrect or misleading – we could act immediately. .Boris’s answer to rumours, false claims or sensational headlines was to get his researchers to find out the facts. These would then go out on Twitter, in The Boris Johnson Times and on our blogs. As a result, the public were very quickly given factual, impartial information on which to make their decision. We were able to correct information on many topics, from the handling of public finances to London’s city bike scheme, to rumours about the end of 24-hour bus passes. They were all things which were important to people and would have had an effect on their daily lives. Carefully, patiently, anything misleading or false was corrected.
I would like to share these 5 tips for publishing an election Paper.li that will be read and respected:
1. Be independent. Have an independent but supportive blogger as the editor.
2. Be a talking point. Include a variety of content from independent journalists and bloggers, as well as official campaign news.
3. Be transparent. Make it clear who the Paper.li supports in its title, in the Editor’s note and with a custom background.
4. Be visible. Manually tweet it several times each day. highlighting an interesting story each time.
5. Be fair. Always credit the author of the stories you tweet prominently.
The internet was an enormous plus point for Boris. You can contrast the way he uses it with this comment on how his opponent, Ken Livingstone, failed to understand its power. A respected journalist, Rob Marchant wrote in the New Statesman: “It comes down to something very simple: as a public figure in the twenty-first century, you have to behave; if only because the technology of communications means that it is so much easier to get caught. You could say, with some accuracy, that the internet has done for Livingstone.”
Boris is acknowledged as a great communicator in person and he has brought that talent to the internet age of politics. And he will continue to communicate with Londoners via Paper.li and other social media as his second term gets under way.