Print and Be Demeaned

Stand by your man. That was always the first response of editors when threats and warnings came in. At the Herald, where I worked from 1973 to 1987, it now seems Bend the Knee is the editor’s motto.

When thugs – be they individual or corporate – start dictating your policy, you’re finished. I suggest that while Magnus Llewellin remains editor the credibility of the Herald is zero.

Newspapers are more than a fistful of pages and a scattering of print. They are – the good ones – the messenger carrying the information gathered through a network of contacts, bringing to us all the intelligence that informs. Information makes us engaged citizens. The flow of information and ideas is the mortar that builds communities and collective ideals. Papers lead popular debate by raising issues and they challenge through scrutiny and interrogation. They earn respect as an essential tool of civilised society, or what the Americans are not too self-conscious still to call Freedom.

Digital media has ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses in the newspaper model by firing in volley after volley of correction, perspective and outright contradiction that can only be confronted through ever more intensive fact-checking and painstaking by the Press. Yet when the need for old-fashioned standards of reporting, writing and subbing is at its greatest, the unforgiving accountancy that demands inexorable budget cuts, hacks away at the roots of journalism. Draining resources from the main purpose of a paper – journalism – dilutes its effectiveness through second-rate appointments, corner-cutting and acceptance of mediocrity. When the budget is the bottom line rather than journalism, the door is open to corruption.

Bowing to boardroom braggadocio and threats of advertising withdrawal is the sign of an organisation in retreat. The squirming statement re Graham Spiers, arguably Scotland’s finest sports writer in the tradition of the Herald’s Ian Archer and the Scotsman’s John Rafferty, was a white flag. The peremptory dismissal of Angela Haggerty for the crime of re-tweeting in solidarity is falling on one’s knees.

This is the paper of Ian Bell (RIP), Iain Mcwhirter, David Pratt, recently released Robbie Dinwoodie and others but the gulf between the few and the generality of reporting and writing is widening. The coverage of the Twitter spat between Rowling and McGarry omitted, as far as I could see, mention of the trigger account whose holder was accused of mysogyny – an essential ingredient of the story and without which it becomes a vacuous bitch-fest between two celebs. Cursory reporting would reveal what the outside world knows – that the Spanner individual, barred two years ago by me, is the epitome of revolting misogyny. Is the Herald the only news outfit unaware of the truth? Or was it, more likely, simply afraid to print what it knows either because of the vile language he uses or because it feared getting on the wrong side of a powerful and rich personality? After this week’s cave-in, we can easily guess.

And that’s the problem, right there. You no longer trust them when you know they can be bought so cheaply. Who else does the Herald bow down to?

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45 thoughts on “Print and Be Demeaned

  1. Well said Derek- and Bella and Wings.

    The corporate media are an absolute disgrace to honest journalism. Who will be next?
    The Herald stablemate ‘The National’?

    Already we have both Scottish TV outlets in thrall to the Union.

    Thank god for the internet!

  2. Changed days for newspapers. “Th’ newspaper…comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable” doesn’t apply, if it ever did. It’s not unique to Scotland or the UK, but newpapers pander to vested interests, or we wouldn’t have the Barclay twins or Murdoch.

  3. As a follower of the Herald’s Facebook page (though perhaps for not much longer) this behaviour is no longer a surprise – the Herald’s screaming SNPbad headlines are completely absurd now, competing directly with the gutter rag Daily Record.

    You simply cannot trust a single word from it anymore, just like the DR, Scotsman and Aberdeen Press & Journal, which leaves Scotland in a dangerous position of having no legitimate political opposition or a media that can properly hold the Scottish government to account.

    • Haven’t you realised? The Mainstream media ARE the political opposition in Scotland and hold the SNP to account for every fart in the room: including the dogs ones. The Lab Lib Conmedia run the show whilst the Unionist political parties are mere feeder operations.

      • As i said in another reply, the MSM have been screaming wolf for so long now that everything they say is ignored by 60% of voters i.e. SNP voters. That means if the wolf eventually makes an appearance, no-one will listen or believe them, resulting in no effective opposition, a dangerous position for any mature democracy.

  4. There have been rather too many negative SNP/Indy stories in The National in recent times for my liking. Seems to me it is being leaned on by big brother through the office partition. However, it is comforting that the circulations of The Herald and all the unionist rags are falling. It is regrettable that job losses are a consequence however if you work for any company that produces crap then your job is never going to be secure.

    • I have to disagree with you on this one Clive. Its not healthy for even a pro indy paper to completely agree with everything the SNP, or Scottish government pronounce on.

      The National has to appeal to all its readers, even if avowedly pro independence. It is much more valuable if it is perceived as a quality respected news source.

      If readers find articles which they consider badly researched, distorted or just plain wrong, then they have recourse to the opinion columns and letters pages.

      A newspaper is only as good as its content and can only survive if it appeals to a wide readership, and that includes those who are still to be convinced of the case for independence, otherwise we are only talking to ourselves.

      • My thoughts entirely

      • Couldn’t agree more David.

        • Absolutely. The national should not be a ‘badly researching mouthpiece’ for the Scottish government but should report the facts.

      • Dave McEwan Hill

        Exactly, David. The last thing we need is a newspaper that looks and reads like an SNP pamphlet.
        The National,as I’m sure you are aware, runs on a shoestring and only the dedication of its very hard pressed staff have kept it going. It has everyday really strong political content from a range of very good political commentators and it is important we keep it going.

      • Your comment would be reasonable, davidmcann24, were it not for the fact that The National is coming from the same group – indeed the same building – as the rabidly pro-Union Herald. The Herald has long been dishing up a daily dose of SNP BAD fare that has become increasingly risible. It makes not the slightest pretence of balance in its promotion of Unionism and bashing of Indy and the SNP in particular. So when apologists for The National excuse its creeping negativity towards the SNP and other aspects of Indy by saying it’s only being ‘balanced’, they are – deliberately or otherwise – overlooking who owns The National. They also overlook why it is The National which is using the excuse of ‘balance’ to excuse a purportedly pro-Indy paper’s increasingly sly underminings of the SNP – the only political engine capable of delivering independence – whilst the overtly pro-Unionist Herald puts an unfettered boot into the SNP every day with not the slightest pretence of ‘balance’. No, you’re wrong about The National – it was set up to enable English-based corporate owners Newsquest to coin in profit from both sides of the independence debate. But those same corporate owners are unremitting in their policy of Unionism, so go figure how much of The National’s supposedly subtle drip-feed of SNP undermining and editorials urging a decade or more to the next referendum are driven by ‘balance’ or a cynical Unionist agenda which thinks Scots readers’ heads zip up the back. We’d only have a trustworthy pro-independence newspaper which could deliver balance if it was set up by a Scottish-owned and Scottish-based proprietor. Sadly, we’re unlikely to see such a beast before Scotland is actually independent. In the meantime, we can at least take some comfort from the fact that despite the best efforts of the MSM – both print and broadcast – who have their strings pulled by English-based corporate or State-owners, Scotland nonetheless returned an historic and game-changing result in GE15. Perhaps that result was in part *because* of the unrelenting onslaught of bias from the MSM.

    • I’m afraid I disagree, the National shows a lack of integrity in not allowing criticism. They had an opinion piece on the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act that was an incredible piece of doublespeak & misinformation. No letters criticising it were printed & the FAC who campaign against the ridiculous law were not given a right to reply.

      I’ve cancelled them as well as the Sunday Herald.

  5. Giesabrek
    I thought holding the Scottish Govt to account is BBC Scotlands job is it no? Do we not pay for the privilege of Eleanor and Glenn and Catriona and och take your pick of cherry picking the worst stats to keep us depressed every morning, safe in the knowledge what a failure of a country we are until we come to our senses?
    Are we not just the worst at everything and to add to it all , we also have atrocious weather?
    There’s your media right there.
    Except they don’t hold the SG to account, they are part of the same media the Herald belongs to, using the same sources, run by the same mind set, educated at the same school of thinking, paid by you and me.
    As for opposition politicians how many use the same sources, run by the same mind set, educated by the same school of thinking, paid for by you and me.
    The Herald may have inadvertently started to pick the scab off .
    What they have done is expose to all and sundry what many of us have concluded and Derek rightly questions.

    If it’s all about giving in to those with money or influence or both what else does our beloved media not print ?

    By the way, we hold the Scottish Govt to account .

    • Sorry, i disagree – with the constant stream of SNPBAD stories, i’m sure I’m not alone in now switching off completely when i see a headline criticising the SNP and one of these days it may be a worthwhile and accurate story.

      Far too many times have the unionist media i.e. every single newspaper and broadcaster bar one cried wolf that the near-60% of SNP voters will never now hear a genuine cry of wolf. I don’t think that’s healthy for any mature democracy

  6. Their Imperial Masters.

  7. In contrast the DM appears to be standing by its woman (which is what you would expect). It is defending the indefensible by claiming that the SNP are hypocrites because Pillippa Whitford, for one, has not “treat(ed) the position (as an MP) as a full time commitment with an attendance and work rate commensurate with that status”. So her work during her holidays assisting her constituents with her skills is hypocritical. And Tory MSP Murdo Fraser agrees! The DM says so. Gutter press indeed. And in its own way as disgraceful as the Herald’s actions. Better surely to have shut up.

  8. I’m disgusted, simply disgusted with the trash that calls itself the media in Scotland. Magnus Llewellyn, with whom I had a fairly civilized exchange a couple of years ago, is either being bought or he is a coward – actually whatever the case he is a coward!

  9. The fall and further fall of the britnat media: nobody to blame but themselves. [But they will blame everyone else anyway]

  10. katherine hamilton

    I think this is the beginning of the end. Sacking people outwith the groupothink? Traducing Mr Speirs, of all people? Scared of losing £40k of advertising to a “Rangers” person? Really?
    Is it that bad?
    Seems so.
    Don’t buy, ridicule and laugh.
    Looks like internet or nothing in the future.

  11. I cancelled my on-line subscription to the Herald today, with actual sadness. The (Glasgow) Herald was a companion of mine for over four decades, and one that I fondly remember and acutely miss, but it lost its way.
    It’s just a shame that there are still some good columnists there; I hope they can find a viable home elsewhere.

  12. Graham Spiers has made a career out of misrepresenting Rangers FC. Angela Haggerty, if you read her blogs is nothing more than a hate- filled bigot. She is not offended by “bigotry”, otherwise she would condemn such from all quarters and would not be a friend of those “tainted with the sectarian brush” such as Phil McGillivan.
    FC
    Haggerty hates Rangers FC because it exists and demonises all its fans because she hates what she believes that club stands for: Unionism, The Monarchy, The British Empire – whatever that is, – and bizarrely Protestantism.

    If, like me, you have ever spent time in Haggerty’s company and that of her little clique of haters, you would , if you had any sense have employed that age old journalistic trope and:

    “Made my excuses and left…”

    • I’m leaving your comment in because it represents a current strand of option and is heavily outnumbered here. But it’s factually wrong about Spiers’ career and on Angela is an insult to a brave and intelligent female journalist. (Whom I know)

  13. I knew both ‘Dan’ Archer and John Rafferty, and Speirsie ain’t either

  14. Tried posting earlier Derek, but it appears to have disappeared into cyberspace.

    Anyroads up, well said.

  15. They don’t want “engaged citizens”, though, do they? “They” want acquiescent citizens, confused citizens, fearful citizens; people who are so diverted that they can’t/don’t want to make the effort to think for themselves. Everything is for sale, truth, morality, principle as long as the price is right.

    I used to enjoy The Herald, mainly for writers like Bell, McWhirter and the excellent David Pratt and I especially enjoyed the daily musings in the letters pages with a number of regulars providing great entertainment as well as information as they did battle in their debates.

    Alas, those days are gone and it has fallen head first into the same midden as the tabloids, all of them fully paid up members of the Establishment; State lackeys sent forth to do the bidding of those who really control the world and its governments.

  16. Who is Spanner? Anyone know?

    • No I don’t but, having read his tweets on Wings earlier, I don’t think I want to.

      • His friends in the Unionist commentariat have been very protective of Brian Spanner. I wonder why? If J K Rowling takes Natalie McGarry to court, we will find out why the sainted one chose to ignore his frequent tweets abusing female politicians in an obscene manner. J K has some very strange friends. If she’s still looking for “death eaters” she might want to consider looking at her Twitter friends.

        On topic: The Herald has disgraced itself. The Editor should be ashamed of himself.

        • Deatheater is a phrase JKR like to throw around towards all sorts of people, but I think you’ve applied it best (and appropriately) – if anyone can be described in such a way then it’s the incredibly loathsome BrianSpanner1.

  17. Dave McEwan Hill

    Lots of people believe Brian Spanner is Euan McColm. I couldn’t possibly comment

  18. Looks like the Brit Unionist broadcast, print. and their gauche attempts at the “alternative’ media are getting Spannered all round by a collective Potter of Rowlings and gutless editors as well as senior management (a distant clansman within the broadcast field, to my eternal shame, being a trailblazer in this respect).

    Fcuk ’em beyond well hell mending them for neglecting their ethical and analytical duties since nineteen canteen (as in from the get go, some honorable individuals excepted in a pimp’s profession, essentially and despite the precious guff of “balance” and “integrity” primped by them in “posh” tones since after they went all establishment from just after the get-go of Caxton’s printing press and, thereafter, plagiarized by Reith O’The Churchillian Britz and subsequent copycatz).

    No hiding place for journos, educators, or any damned anybody who does not pursue and present the evidence in a balanced manner (and I trust re-independence will create a non-negotiable space for this maintenance of veracity, humanity, and integrity plus the kicking out on their sorry arses of the propagandists who pose as historians, scientists, lawyers, etc, etc).

  19. Thank you Derek for the right response at the right time.

    Like other formerly faithful purchasers I am sorry at the downward spiral at The Herald but it has been sick for some time now and we may mark the end of January 2016 as the time “the Herald died” though sadly I feel that few will mourn its passing and it may well drag others down with it. Sad too, to reflect, that the Edinburgh counterpart, The Hoootsman, has been ailing for years and seems destined to go the same way

  20. Newspaper are no longer newspapers they have become gossip columns full of guff and bluster.

  21. Dave McEwan Hill

    This is surely the time for someone to step in with a few millions and buy them both to combine them into a “Scottish Herald”

  22. Rowling is shown to be a truly odious character. She thinks truth can be suppressed with money and power.

    Hell mend you Rowling, you take your soul with you when you leave this earth. All the money in the world can’t save you from yourself or your conscience.

  23. I wonder why the deeply arrogant Neil MacKay is escaping the flack here.

  24. Great effort Derek. This feels like a turning point. To make the most of it the W.o S. Article has to be circulated far and wide.
    Wonder how many Herald readers know of Dinwoodie’s departure, it was news to me.
    Is there a single political correspondent, working solely for the Herald who is Scottish.

    • “Is there a single political correspondent, working solely for the Herald who is Scottish.”
      One aspect of your question worries me. Should we have a ‘purity test’ before journalists are allowed to put metaphorical pen to paper?
      I have no problem with anyone born furth of Scotland writing for any paper. So longs they add a proper perspective to Scottish stories rather than simply toeing a ‘union’ line.

  25. Well said Derek. I’ve been unhappy with the quality of the Herald for some time and this is a disgraceful episode.

    As for the National, despite trying to support it because of its stance on indpendence, and though it was entertaining to read various bloggers there, the fact is it wasn’t often a very good newspaper and the use of bloggers was a cheap way of filling pages instead of journalists digging out real stories. As some have said it was surviving on a shoestring budget – yet we have to ask why that should be considering it was the support of independence supporters who helped boost the Sunday Herald into being one of the very few papers to vastly increase circulation figures and bring in money for them. In my opinion the least they should attempt, if serious, is to make it a good newspaper since we had already made it clear to them we were willing to pay for that. In my opinion they have signally failed to show themselves serious about doing that.

    As for the revulsion I feel for the Jk, Spanner, Muriel trio enough to say they genuinely turn my stomach, since the distaste I feel for them has turned into a physical reaction now. The Herald should have mentioned him and brought their support for some of that to wider notice.

  26. Great article Derek, thank you.

  27. Good incisive article as usual, Derek. The Herald editor displayed nothing short of spineless capitulation in the face of the threat to withdraw a comparatively minor sum of advertising revenue by, as I read elsewhere The Rangers Supporters’ Trust.

    In my opinion it said everything about the Herald’s demise as a balanced commenter on the political scene in Scotland, when they employed the anti-Independence columnist Magnus Gardham, previously of the Daily Record, (whom I refer to as Mangled Garbage, due to his tiresome, misleading SNP Bad drivel).

    This defection of course left the Record with their other producer of SNP Bad drivel, the Highlanders’ single reason why the Clearances maybe didn’t go far enough, Torcuil Crichton (whom I refer to as Tortuous Cringeton). With political backstabbers like these, who needs Alan Demented Cochrane of the Torygraph?

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