Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Inconvenient Journalists

Yesterday, I was thrown out of Al Gore's climate change presentation.

Before you ask, I hadn't returned to my direct action roots and interrupted the slideshow by splashing black paint across the stage to symbolize the million air miles he and Tipper offset annually. (Though that is a lot of oil.)

I was there as a journalist and I was ejected along with the rest of the media after the first five minutes. All we got to see was the "My name's Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States" stand-up routine. So I can confirm that he delivers his punchlines with an impressive feel for comic timing. But that's it.

Afterwards, in the lobby, I wasted more energy than it was worth telling the PR team what I thought. As one of the newspaper reporters put it, "How are we meant to report that?" All they could tell us was that they had negotiated on our behalf with Gore's people to get us in even for five minutes. Apparently he doesn't allow media in his presentations.

Given how much Gore has done to shift attitudes over climate change, it seems petty to gripe. Anyway, having calmed down, I'm actually interested in what's going on here. When he says that the "conversation of democracy is broken", Gore has the US media in his sights, so I guess the "no journalists" policy is part of this. Although he doesn't flesh out its implications, his emphasis on the importance of democratic renewal to tackling climate change is reassuring, in comparison to the authoritarian tone of some prominent campaigners here in the UK. But that's exactly what I'm writing an article about - and it would have been good to be able to see him in action at first hand, rather than being told by a press officer that the content of his presentation would "probably be not much different to the DVD".

As it was, I went to the coffee shop round the corner and wrote up half of the article, then went to the pub with James and Tom who (as members of the invited audience) had been in for the whole presentation and were able to fill me in on what I'd missed.

(From what they told me, it really wasn't much different to the DVD. But that's not quite the point.)

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