Portraying Politics – A Training Toolkit for Journalists, Broadcasters, Media Managers and Trainers

Portraying Politics is not simply about politics and politicians interpreted as 'high politics' - the political decision-making processes of parliament or government. It is concerned with political issues and political representation in a broader sense. For instance the place of politics in everyday life, the relationship of citizens to the political process, the role of journalists in portraying politicians and in interpreting political issues - all these are touched on in the toolkit.

Journalists and programme-makers working on politics and current affairs wrestle with at least two fundamental challenges. On the one hand, there is the question of professional definition. What precisely is political journalism, or what should it be? What are the salient issues? How should they be prioritised? Who do they most affect? How should they be tackled - from a top-down, or a bottom-up perspective? On the other hand, there is the question of professional approach. How is the audience to be addressed? What is the best way to encourage people's interest in politics? What should be the mode of address - expository, entertaining, authoritative, interpretative?
Who is the audience - or who should it be? How can broadcasters ensure that their treatment of political issues is inclusive, in the sense of reaching out to women, young people, ethnic minorities? The toolkit provides some points of departure for detailed discussion of these and other professional questions.

The project began with a review of research on gender, politics and media. Its conclusions guided the selection of issues that are covered in the toolkit. As a specific contribution to the project, ZDF carried out a study of women and men in its own newscasts in the summer of 2005 . We also had access to the findings of a 76-country study of women and men that was carried out in 2005 . With the findings of these studies as a starting point, the project partners researched and contributed programme examples from their own output and that of some other interested broadcasters. The video clips form the core of the toolkit. They illustrate some of the main patterns and tendencies in television's portrayal of women and men in politics and public life today.

In some respects the toolkit is a sequel to Screening Gender, a training toolkit produced in 2000 by six European broadcasting organisations . However, with its specific focus on the world of politics and public life, Portraying Politics enters new and, in some ways, more complex territory. As the research and examples in this toolkit demonstrate, unravelling the inter-relationships between gender, media and politics presents challenges that have until now been relatively unexplored.

There are few non-white faces among the people who appear in these video clips. This is largely a reflection of the low representation of ethnic minority groups in the political life of most European countries. For instance in the United Kingdom, where 8% of citizens are from a non-white ethnic background, only 2% of politicians are of black or Asian ethnic origin. But it is not solely a matter of political representation, or the lack of it. There are also questions to be raised about media representation of ethnic minorities in the broader political process. So in the final module of the toolkit we address the issue of diversity in its widest sense, and the need to take a comprehensive approach to the representation of all groups in society.

Portraying Politics is therefore intended to stimulate reflection and debate among journalists, programme-makers and media managers about the many inter-connected factors that link journalism, politics and representation. We hope it will challenge some taken-for-granted aspects of journalistic practice and, above all, that it will provoke creative thinking about how things could - and should - be done differently.