THE FOURTH ESTATE?

THE FOURTH ESTATE?

“That a man thinks as his newspaper directs him – discuss.”

The above was my choice of essay in the Higher English exam in 1960 – how time flies.  Now apart from the fact that the question seemed to assume that only men read newspapers, this subject nevertheless captured the attention of  this 16 year old “woman”.

The points raised by this question seemed to be 1) Do we choose our  newspaper to echo our beliefs? Or 2) Have our beliefs been moulded by the newspaper we read?  My own experience of my family’s newspaper habit was, I felt, not typical.  My parents took the Daily Record everyday and yet they were both card-carrying Tories!  My Father claimed to choose that paper because it had the best football coverage, while my Mother simply said “I don’t like a big (broadsheet) paper”. That meant on Sundays we got the Sunday Post and the Sunday Mail.  Maybe this was typical in homes all over Scotland, but I felt it was not. But then at 16 we tend to think that our parents are odd and hopefully not typical.

Anyway, in the conclusion of my essay I decided that newspapers, in the main, reflected rather than moulded their readers opinions.

60 years on and where do I stand on the Fourth Estate?  Well, now we get our news from many sources, but newspapers still seem to project the type of  opinions that will lead the various newsfeeds – 24 hour television, social media etc. all tend to reflect the day’s headlines.

So where does this leave the 48% of people in Scotland who believe in Independence?  Sadly lacking in their views being reflected, I would contend.  Here I give you a few recent examples.  Last Sunday we had a so-called independence leaning paper, The Sunday Herald, photo-shopping a picture of our huge march for Independence making a few arch unionists appear to have a similar turn-out.  (It actually amounted to a motely crew of, at most, a dozen angry Orangemen!) There goes the Sunday Herald as my paper of choice!

A similar example was seen on the day of Ruth Davidson’s “gubbing” by the First Minister at FMQs, on the subject of the power grab by Westminster.

(After Brexit, their cunning plan is to hold on to 24 currently devolved powers, thus substantially reducing the remit of our Scottish Parliament.)

Nicola, in no uncertain terms, told Ruth that she was “not on!”  It was game, set and match to Nicola again!  Surely the assembled political journos would be eager to report on this?  BBC Reporting Scotland rightly, led with this story on their lunch-time news. But by tea-time it had dropped off the running order completely in favour of “Ruth Davidson expecting baby.”

Now that is lovely news, but hardly the stuff of “hold the front page!”

We can all argue about what constitutes a lead story but surely, in a serious media operation, a solid political story, like the very future of our Scottish Parliament, must trump a human interest story, no matter how nice and heart-warming?

However, to me, this was less distressing by far than the picture, front page in The Sun, of a burning baby box.  Not only “journalism” in its lowest form, but totally thoughtless and irresponsible.  Given a lighter, I could burn a cot, Moses basket, pram you name it – it will burn.  To frighten new mothers in this way is beneath contempt.  The baby box is a lovely way to welcome children to our nation, to say you are valued, you should be loved and we consider all babies to be equal.  Believe me, as an old social worker, these boxes will be treasured by all who receive them.

Having witnessed the distress and guilt felt by instances of  roll-over cot deaths if  the baby box, used as a cot, saves one precious life then this universal gift is worth its weight in gold!  Shame on you The Sun.

In spite of all their mis-reporting  in Scotland, I do not wish to see the daily newspaper continuing its slow death.

The Record, Sun, Express and Mail were never an option for me.  The Scotsman lost me when Andrew Neil became Editor, and as for the Herald, which had been my daily paper for many decades, their daily dose of SNP bad headlines has proved too much for me to take.  Newspapers purporting to cover news in Scotland must up their game and respect the views of almost half the Scottish population.  Let us hope that the National remains to reflect our views.  I am running out of newspapers to enjoy in the morning.

And yes, I passed my Higher English!

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