Steven Price has an excellent piece on why TV3 should not have a worm:
We no longer need to listen to the debates and think about what we’re hearing for ourselves. We have an electronic scorecard. An infallibly scientific one. A fascinating, beguiling one. Instead of thinking to ourselves, “Now, is Helen Clark making any sense?” we think, “How is that going down? Is she winning the game?”
It’s politics as pure sport. We are mere spectators. The worm relieves us of the burden of having to work out for ourselves who’s ahead.
But hang on. The worm is simply the electronically summed gut reactions of a bunch of undecided voters twiddling some knobs in a room somewhere. Why take any notice of them? You won’t be told who they are, but you can make some safe assumptions.
First, the great majority of them will not share your political views.
Second, you would find some of them to be complete tossers.
Third, you have no idea what they are reacting to. You’re watching their reactions to the leaders’ ideas – mostly before the leaders have finished expressing them. Some of them are thinking, “Yeah, I’ve been following National’s Treaty of Waitangi policy and it makes good sense to me.” Some are thinking, “Ooh, I like his tie.” Some are thinking, “Damn, I forgot to remind Trish to pick up the sausages.”
When the worm was first used in 1996, Pam Corkery reckoned it simply went up when the live studio audience applauded. Wellington businessman Michael Gibson observed that the worm dipped whenever Paul Holmes appeared onscreen, no matter who was talking.
There was also lots of coverage about how the worm adored Helen Clark. The commentators examined her “empathetic nodding,” her “softer, modulated voice,” her “pained sincerity,” her “ability to project an authoritative presence.” They didn’t examine her policies much.
And that’s why I hate the worm. It’s yet another thing pushing us toward image analysis and horse-race politics, and away from talking about how we’ve been affected by the government’s decisions in the last three years, what the alternatives might have been, and what policies are best for the future. The worm finds this stuff too boring. It doesn’t like long explanations. Nor does it like taxes (though it does like improvements in health and education). It doesn’t like uncomfortable truths being mentioned.
It turns a debate into a game show. No serious broadcaster would use one.Tags: debate, Steven Price, The Worm