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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011

9 - ‘From the campaign trail’: the framing of election news


Politics is often reported as a narrative, with a plot focused on conflict, climax and resolution. This is the case even in ‘normal’ periods of politics but an election campaign has an especially well-defined beginning, middle and end. The campaign proper begins with the Prime Minister driving to meet the Governor-General and asking for a dissolution of Parliament. Television crews wait patiently outside Government House to capture the drive through the gates because this is so symbolic and represents the beginning of the campaign. In the middle – sometimes called the ‘rising action’ in literature – are the day-to-day campaign activities, especially of the leaders. These are all building up to the climax of polling day and are usually reported in those terms: what does this mean for the likely result?

On polling day, the Labor and Coalition leaders are recorded casting their own votes in their respective electorates. This is another highly symbolic moment, shown on all of the television news bulletins that night. Some of those bulletins then morph into election night programs dedicated to reporting the vote count. Once the result is known, the winning party leader gives a victory speech and the loser a concession speech, which mark the acceptance of victory and defeat. This is the end of the main story, but some resolution also occurs in the following few days as commentators analyse the meaning of the result.

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