Tom Bradby isn’t enjoying covering the #IndyRef. This may be the new normal

Just a thought on the level of abuse journalists have been receiving during the #Indyref campaign in Scotland.

Tom Bradby writes a post about how he isn’t enjoying the experience of covering the referendum because of the level of abuse he’s been receiving. I’ve noted before that it is the topic most likely to generate abusive tweets when we talk about it on @ampp3d. Tom specifically makes the point in his post that:

“My first major job as a correspondent was in Ireland in the early nineties and, despite the fact that there was a bitter war going on all round me that took many lives, I experienced virtually no personal hostility at all from anyone. They didn’t lob accusations of bias around every time you asked a question either.”

That made me wonder – is the Scottish referendum debate really more heated than anything during the Troubles? Or are we as journalists just feeling and seeing the heat that much more because of social media?

Complaints about individual journalists or articles used to get funnelled through the “Letters to the editor”, and so nobody could see the strength of opinion about a particular issue except for the letters’ editor. And journalists might get some “green ink” letters, but it was much harder to organise a “green ink” campaign.

With every passing election campaign, there are more people using social media in the UK, and fewer gatekeepers between the journalist and the public.

I’ve no doubt that it has a been a bumpy social media ride covering the #IndyRef, but I suspect that this is may be the new normal for us in covering elections, and that we won’t see much different in May.