The best of both worlds: Spiceworld and Narnia

Today’s Sun says that for the very first time Alex Salmond has admitted that independence won’t be easy and that we won’t have magic taps running fresh water, whisky and oil.  “Was that really so difficult, First Minister?” the leader asks.

As Wings Over Scotland points out, it wasn’t difficult – and wasn’t difficult  when he said the same thing publicly in June 2013, in January 2014 and in June 2014.

It probably sounds like a minor thing, but it’s characteristic of something that’s really shaken my faith in journalism in general over the last couple of years: we’re being told stuff that simply isn’t true and that doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of fact-checking. It’s not just the tabloids, either.

If the papers can’t be straight about very simple, well documented and easily verifiable pieces of information, how can you trust them on the more important issues?

It’s hard to quibble with Stuart Campbell when he says:

this stuff isn’t (just) cheap, snarky point-scoring about the stupefying incompetence of other journalists. It’s about the people of Scotland being fed a completely false narrative about a dishonest, shifty First Minister who promises the Earth and refuses to acknowledge any possible problems.

Obviously I’m coming to this from the perspective of a (converted) Yes voter, but it’s very clear from conversations I’m having online and off that many people will be voting in part based on outright lies and some very carefully worded claims (so for example the Better Together literature points out that Scotland benefits from transplant deals with English hospitals, implying that independence will mean the end of such deals. It won’t).

I’m not naive. I know that political campaigning means lying, distortion, dog whistle issues and other unpalatable things. But journalism is supposed to counterbalance that, to investigate the claims, expose the falsehoods and to hold campaigners (on both sides) to account. Its number one purpose is to ensure that the electorate are well informed – and from where I’m sitting, much of the media appears to be doing quite the opposite.

Journalism is supposed to be part of the solution, but here in Scotland* it’s part of the problem.

* With some honourable exceptions, of course. 

3 thoughts on “The best of both worlds: Spiceworld and Narnia

  1. Gary says:

    The Sun piece is interesting for another reason: a few Wings commenters believe it’s part of a shift that’ll see the Sun backing independence in the run-up to the referendum – something along the lines of “now that Salmond has listened to The Sun…”. It’ll be interesting if it does, because The Sun tends to wait until it thinks it knows the winner before giving it its full support.

  2. Roddy Scott says:

    If it is in the Sun then it has to be true!

    This type of journalism is exactly what you would expect from that rag. It will only get worse as they sit there and try and think up more of their ‘snappy’ headlines that are gobbled down by the brain dead.
    British journalism was once a respected institution but now it has become the mouth piece for those self-centered, self-opinionated, corrupt magnates who sponsor the Tory government.
    How often do you see their lurid headlines with their made up stories and when it comes to the truth they have no idea as to what it represents.
    The extreme bias shown by both the newspapers and teh television companies who lick Westminster arse is appalling and does not serve the public.
    News? What news?

  3. Gary says:

    I do wonder what the outcome of all of this will be, whatever the result. There are lots of people looking at traditional media and thinking “hang on…” The readership figures for online media are staggering. Love it or hate it, Wings is doing massive numbers right now.

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