Holding the powerful to account in real time

On Monday, the deadline passed for Northern Ireland’s political parties to form a coalition government. For news outlets in Northern Ireland, this outcome probably wasn’t a surprise – relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein entered the deep freeze a while ago and nothing much has changed.

Ahead of the elections, BelfastLive ran a poll seeking views of thousands of readers about the election. Of the results, the one which stood out the most for me was just how disappointed people in Northern Ireland were about the prospect of another election so soon after the last one. Just 7.2% of people retained faith in MLAs as a result of recent goings on at Stormont.

On Monday, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire delivered a press conference outlining what the deadlock meant. BelfastLive streamed it live on Facebook.

If ever there was an example of journalism bringing politics to the people instantly, and the public mood being summed up instantly and in real-time, then I think this Facebook Live is it.

It’s easy to criticise journalism for not being the same as it once was. Not so many reporters in council meetings, fewer political stories in the papers and so on. But surely this approach shows that with the right digital tools, used in the right way, journalism can be as powerful as ever when holding those in authority to account? A real-time debate around real-time political events?




2 thoughts on “Holding the powerful to account in real time

  1. David,
    Why do you assume that the politicians were held to account. At best it explained what the were doing or what was happening. However, this does not hold them to account. All this does is allow the political spectacle to continue or to take a different stage.

    To hold them to account would mean one of many things.
    They have to explain what happened and why
    They have to provide further information
    They have to review and if needed revise
    They have to granting redress or impose sanctions

    Holding a press conference is a staged performance of being held to account. They are providing information at most without having to explain who did it or why they did it. More to the point, the person who is responsible is not at the press conference, it is the person conducting the spectacle. Yet, they are not there to account for what they did only to explain what is happening by other people.

    At best this is pointing a finger which is not exactly holding them to account.

    1. I think the conversation around it in real-time brings a degree of accountability, whether those people are there or not.

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