Done Up Like A Kipper

Silly me! Imagine not knowing that every news outlet in Scotland repeated almost verbatim press releases produced by political parties day by day throughout the holidays. And me a media professional. Oh dear.

I’m told in jeering tones by journalists that: ‘We’re all at it. It’s been going on for years. We fix the stories two weeks in advance and print what the parties tell us. No problem.’

Well, I think there’s a problem alright. Because however cynical Scots get about their media, most hold to the view that newspapers are at least expertly edited, separately researched, specially written and editorially independent. Editors and owners always boast about upholding their values. They are beholden to none. When the Scotsman launched exactly two hundred years ago, it declared to the world its ‘impartiality, firmness and independence.’

Now, every industry has its wrinkles and mild abuses to make sure the machine is oiled. I get that. I was around when the print unions employed widespread abuses to screw as much as they could from the publishers. I was a trade union official versed in gentle threats that would disrupt the paper if demands weren’t met – never mind striking, which have done I think four times.

I’ve written about the casual fakery of correspondents fixing up with contacts to hold a story for a quiet period – a practice that of itself does no harm except that the copy will inevitably be written the way the contact wants it – in his interests and not as unbiased journalism. That’s because he’s doing the journalist, who’ll be on a break, a favour.

I do think the public has a right to know when mild cons are being perpetuated but suspect that, like me, they’re not unduly bothered.

However, the industrial scale of the agenda-rigging revealed by the Labour document is on another level. An entire two-week list of pre-written articles, all in favour of the party’s interests, complete with quotes and written as if immediate breaking news rather than stitched together four months ago, fails any test of proper journalism. That so many of these PR releases are published unaltered, unchecked, sometimes with nothing more than the obligatory “it’s no’ true’ quote from the SNP, is anti journalism.

It didn’t happen when I was working. It’s true that I was at the BBC rather than a newspaper for years but I recall no moment when the ‘Labour List’ came in to the office or a producer said: ‘We’ll run that today to comply with Labour’s embargo.’ And in newspapers where I last had a full-time job in 1991 and freelanced until ’97, this simply didn’t happen on this scale, if at all.

I tried to imagine what the editors I worked under would have said if, as political editor, I’d offer a roster of pre-written stories to run every day of a holiday. I imagine Arnold Kemp calling in Harry Reid and telling him: ‘Bateman wants us to agree to publish this list of material written for him by the Labour press office so he can go on holiday. I think we should tell him and the Labour Party to fuck off. If he wants a job with Labour, he should get one. I don’t pay him to take orders from them and nobody tells me what and when to put in my paper. This is the Herald, not the Banchory Bugle.’

Another, Andrew Jaspan, would have taken delight in telling me to write an entire article about how a political party tried to subvert the journalism of Scotland on Sunday. ‘Let’s expose them and all the papers that use their stories’, he’d say. ‘Make the point that we lead the news, we don’t follow party dictum.’

But who are today’s editors? Can you name one? Would you recognise a photo? Of course, not. They’re non-entities with no wider role in Scottish life, commanding no public respect. In fact, it’s likely that if one did dare put his head above the parapet to speak on a matter of concern, if he was recognise at all, he’d be chased out of town by the mob.

The really interesting reaction to yesterday’s publication was just that – the divergence of opinion between the insiders to whom this is normal and the reading public who suddenly realise they are being conned.

I had the Labour document so it was with glee that the insiders declared that all the parties did it, as if that knocked the story. Kieran Andrews of the Sunday Post, an investigative journalist according to Twitter, said he had the SNP’s own list of stories, as if that made it alright. The reality to the readers of course, was exactly the opposite. It made it ten times worse that the entire political establishment had a prepared roster of the articles produced by the parties and printed by the papers throughout the holiday. This is the communications business so why don’t they simply tell readers that for the next fortnight many of the stories in their paper will have been agreed with the parties and more or less written by the party staff? If there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the system why not declare it? After all they’re in the disclosure business.

The lack of self-awareness and the disconnect between the journalists and the newspaper-buying public is stunning. My Twitter timeline, apart from those complicit, is universally shocked and critical.

If you ever needed an insight into why the Scottish papers are in irreversible decline, this is it. People hate to be conned. And the knowledge that their paper, or indeed the broadcasters, are part of an undeclared comprehensive fix to feed them contrived articles fitting a party agenda, feels like cheating.

Being rumbled of course isn’t pleasant which why some in the media react so violently to being exposed. Paul Hutcheon of the Herald said my views were as pathetic as ever, although he offered no explanation or justification, sounding more poisonous pipsqueak than investigative journalist. If I’m so pathetic, why do you think he reads me? (That’s two investigative types mentioned so far. You’d think they’d be inclined to expose the wrong-doing in their own industry, no?)

Journalists have always had to work with their sources and there is often a measure of compromise involved. But is there no longer pride in the job, a sense of professional dignity that prohibits being used by lobbyists? Do they honestly tell themselves it’s OK to conspire with those they are meant to scrutinise because they need a Christmas break?

You may wonder what did used to happen before the current generation came along. In my recollection, we reduced the size of the papers, we filled space with picture essays, we wrote or commissioned time-neutral news features. On occasion we didn’t publish at all at Christmas. I don’t remember writing pretendy stories in cahoots with politicians with my name on them while I had my feet up at home.

The answer of course is times have changed and they don’t have the same number of staff. Does that mean they should all connive to con the readers? There are retired journalists who share my worries about the demise of a vibrant and intelligent media but who keep their peace – just as there are ex BBC executives appalled at some of today’s output but prefer to keep quiet to avoid embarrassing the organisation. I don’t agree with them.

I think silence is a cancer in the system. We owe to those who sustain our industry – the consumers – to be open and honest. If staffing levels are too low to sustain a viable product, someone should say so. If the media is destroying itself by forgetting its primary aim to report truthfully, someone should say so.

We shouldn’t let the Scottish media drift into irrelevance through silence.

I get it in the neck for attacking the quality of the BBC and the papers but, unlike many in the nationalist camp, I don’t want to destroy them. I criticise because they are not good enough. I want pluralism and diversity in the media. I don’t mind the pro-union commentary – but I despise the confluence of reporting with opinion that passes for modern journalism.

You have to wonder: Is this placement of stories only happening at Christmas? Is it only the political parties who get to put stories straight into the papers unchecked? Are other organisations and companies doing the same? Do you know the answer?

Do you imagine the media will tell you?

I think there’s a deeper concern here for Scottish nationalists. I see Mhairi Hunter, the Glasgow SNP councillor, was another justifying this ‘Christmas box’ charade on the grounds that it gave the press office staff and the journalists a wee break and denying it amounted to collusion. It’s not a secret just because people didn’t know, she says. Mmm. I think she’ll find the public reaction rather discounts that. The stark fact is, if not outright sinister, it is, shall we say, ‘dovetailing’ of interests between the poacher and the gamekeeper. And since, the media – whose job after all is disclosure – purposefully don’t disclose they are publishing according to a joint plan, the public are in effect denied the knowledge they need to judge the content.

Someone in the SNP press office also proudly announced he was checking off SNP-inspired stories in the Sunday papers confirming the We’re-All-In-It-Together nature of the game.

I have news him. If there is one overriding concern among SNP activists, it is the Scottish media. Throughout the contacts I have with party people, many of them street-pounders and door-knockers, the constant refrain is criticism of the appalling Scottish media. Some believe it lost the referendum and that it is the single biggest block to independence.

I guarantee the wee man in the press office and Mhairi that those nationalists will be furious and let down to think that their party is making life easy for journalists who spend their life attacking all they stand for. Before the Christmas box revelations there was already profound anxiety about the failure to rebut effectively, about the softly softly approach taken, the photos of Nicola with the Sun and the general cosying up to a media corps whose output seems to despise their entire project. Ask a nationalist and they will tell you it’s like inviting someone to your New Year party only to watch pee on your carpet before leaving – then saying: See you next year.

What we are seeing is a sign of the casual corruption of public life when managerialism triumphs and the interests of the political decision-makers coincides with the interests of media. Instead of creative tension, it collapses in on itself, but the participants are so close to each other and so removed from the public, they can’t see it. All governments go the same way in time and if the SNP wants to play nice with the media, it deserves all it gets in return.

Even if you don’t take offence at having your news dictated by political spin doctors, what do we say about so-called journalism that puts those stories straight into print or on to the airwaves unedited and unchecked? Shouldn’t newspapers have concerns about the factual content, some of which has changed in the weeks since the articles were prepared?

Actually, I suspect the answer to all this is NO. No, we don’t care. No, we don’t have standards. No, we don’t have pride in the job. No, it doesn’t matter. This is the nature of the media today and it’s only going to get worse. Learn to live with it.

I thought the coup de grace came the most ardent supporter of the spoon-fed system – a PR executive – someone I’d never heard of – but that summed it up for me. When the people whose job is to con the public are congratulating you, well then, you’ve been done up like a kipper.

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59 thoughts on “Done Up Like A Kipper

  1. Former journalist wakes up to reality. Discovers that readers of newspapers, (paper and online) have known that the content is mostly reproduced PR puffs, and has been for many years. Which is why the ABC figures are no longer accessible to the public. Previous years suggest a current paper circulation of less than 10,000 for both Herald and Scotsman.
    Taking a facile example the reporting of lower sugar content in Irn Bru was identical, word for word, in Herald, Scotsman, BBC, and English papers where reported.
    Not a single question asked about artificial sweeteners, for example. No questions about, “if you can do it now, why did you not do it years ago?”) Nothing at all.
    Blind copying, of the kind that would have had you expelled from school.

  2. While very much in sympathy with Derek Bateman’s views on the media in Scotland, I must confess to being less concerned about the fact of a package of pre-written stories provided to newspapers by political parties than I am about the character of those stories. To my mind, in the age of rolling news and near-instant updating, it is only sensible that the press offices should seek to keep the voracious beast fed.

    No news is NOT good news. No news is just no news. It’s ‘dead air’, and whatever the newspaper equivalent may be. The sausage-machine never stops running. So those whose job it is to influence the flavour of the sausages are obliged to ensure the supply of their ingredients is not interrupted by events and occasions that are relics of a time when news was fed to us in periodic chunks rather than as a constant stream.

    What concerns me is, not the stock buffering of inputs to this news stream, but the nature and purpose of those inputs. It may well be that ‘they’re all at it’. But that doesn’t mean we should assume that they are all doing it for the same reasons. Or that the inputs being provided are of an undifferentiated type. There are stories. And there are stories.

    I’m quite untroubled by articles written in advance about things that are pretty much entirely predictable. Events that are on Nicola Sturgeon’s calendar for the festive season, for example, can probably be written up beforehand with no harm done. All the relevant facts are known. The speeches are written. The quotable bits are highlighted. It’s just sausage-filler.

    But stories that are intended to significantly influence the news agenda may be a different matter. A Tory FoI request that’s been held back for several months just so as to fill gaps on the conveyor-belt of grinding anti-SNP negativity is, at the very least, dubious. The unveiling of a new Jeremy Corbyn slogan timed to best suit British Labour’s interests smacks of a troubling degree of collusion between the party and the media.

    I’m sure others can think of further examples that illustrate the point. It’s not just about the ‘Christmas Boxes’. It’s about what’s in them.

  3. […] very much in sympathy with Derek Bateman’s views on the media in Scotland, I must confess to being less concerned about the fact of a package of […]

  4. This entire story exposes the.chasm that appears to exist between the producers and consumers of news and current affairs in Scotland. By their obvious bias the MSM create an atmosphere of cynicism and distrust amongst independence supporters and fuelling the general political anomie of their opponents.
    I am very far from being naive and appreciate that journalist have to some extent always relied on political parties for their stories. However, political parties should never dictate the entire news contents of particular news outlets.
    The simple and possibly the most effective method of restoring public confidence in the media is to be totally frank about the source of a particular news ite,m. By which I don’t mean a measly attribution at the end of the item or even BBC Scotland’s perrenial favourite ‘but, critics say’.

    • This is why the internet and blogs are rapidly becoming a better source of news. I well written and researched political blog will, just as any undergraduate student is taught to do for essays, have references and links through the story. It’ll say something like “a new report” written by .

      The problem with old media is that it’s trying to cling onto an thoroughly outdated method of working where you can get away without doing that. Older people may be used to being told, “A new report we’ve seen says x,y,z is terrible” with no reference or link to that report or who wrote it.

      Printing Labour press releases verbatim is worse even than that, because it demonstrates the actual report itself is written by an interest group. Again, if a Labour press release is on the Labour webpage, there’s no problem with it: it’s clear who the source is. Again, as any undergraduate or librarian will tell you, judging how accurate, timely, and trustworthy information is a critical part of evaluating that information. You would make a totally different evaluation of a piece of information if it came from the Labour website than it if came from a national newspaper – or at least, you should be able to.

      In this information age, if papers can’t be relied upon to be impartial sources, and can’t source and link their information, what’s the point of them at all?

  5. This is one of your best articles, Derek, of which there have been many. I support independence and the SNP, but agree that it’s really disappointing that SNP press office plays along with lazy journalists who despise them.

  6. Re the SNP officials trying to soft soap this issue. Well I am one of those people Derek describes, sick to the back teeth of the Scottish media and their agenda. I fully believe they scuppered the first vote and continue this campaign to try to prevent a second. For SNP employees to dilute this is an insult. Listen up, get your act together or you will suffer further membership number falls and at the ballot box. Time for a more robust stand against these mendacious crooks.

  7. They are fouling where they eat. Nobody likes to hear poisonous negative news stories at Christmas. Even if you are a convinced unionist it must be wearying to have to endure a relentless stream of SNP-bad stories about the failures of the Scottish Government. And how if you have a heart attack this Christmas you will definitely be a gonner because of the NHS collapsing under the SNP. Yeah, really uplifting, that. Really reassuring, season of goodwill and all that – really gets you into the Christmas spirit and tucking into the Christmas pudd with lashings of Brandy butter.

    My sister avoids the news and does not buy papers because they depress the hell out of her. Circulation drops because they are too poisonous for those of a nervous disposition. I mean, why deliberately raise your blood pressure? It’s supposed to be a holiday.

    Times were once that the Christmas period had uplifting time neutral stories about interesting places or traditions around the country. Picture essays. Shopping stories. Holiday walks. Health and recipes stuff. Book reviews. Nice neighbour stories. Cute doggie stories. Nice sunsets over the Ochil hills. Fairy bridges on Skye. And all that kind of cheery fluff to read and relax over by the fire with a dram.

    It’s complete crap to suggest that time pressures and reduced staff are to blame. There is a corporate agenda as well as a decline in public standards and morality. There’s all sorts of cheery fluff that could be written in May for publication in December by freelancers on the cheap. It’s no excuse and it’s not the reason for the decline.

  8. When is the penny going to drop that poison doesn’t sell newspapers?

  9. “You have to wonder: Is this placement of stories only happening at Christmas?”

    I think, as readers, we have to assume that yes, it is. Not only by political parties – obviously only the political parties whose agenda aligns with the media barons, and/or who have big enough pockets to buy the media – but also by global corporations. Probably more usually, and more subtly, by global corporations. The media itself is, after all, run by global corporations. Politicians are run by global corporations, as are many lobby groups and “think tanks”.

    It’s all one big stitch up and don’t think anyone who reads newspapers or watches news media needs to be aware it. There’s no such thing as “news” anymore: it’s all stage managed, PR managed, manipulated. It always was, to an extent. I remember a Labour political PR guy in Westminster who used to work for Coca Cola telling me one of his jobs for them was to write happy-clappy fluff pieces to send to newspapers who were running their ads, for placement on the page opposite the ad. Because obviously they didn’t want their ad next to some random bad news story. That would have been decades ago now – 30 years since he told me and probably 30 since he did the job. Harmless, in it’s own way.

    My assumption in these days of Trump, reality TV, Brexit, global and corporations running everything is that things will be on a different magnitude these days. That’s why I don’t read the media anymore. Journalism is long dead, buried and a pile of bones. All we have is click bait and PR.

  10. Ah but, Derek the upside should be the onset of back to reality Monday (tomorrow). Whilst I agree with almost all of your prognosis above, I have a feeling that next week will bring a slew of UK government bad news stories which will be impossible to ignore and set the real news agenda for January. CBI and industry demanding Brexit clarity for one…

  11. Very interesting piece and accurate reporting on the political bias inflicted on the vunarable naive general public.

    However, as you suggested many now, are aware of the continued daily political propganda with all Scottish media. We see the headline and realise what it is.

    It is explicit disregard for truth, a pure form of obvious propaganda to suit a poltical agenda.

    I was always taught to find multiple sources, for, against or middle ground and compare these to obtain a FAIR summary of a news story. Writing or reporting by adding value with truthful content from both sides is for me journalism as it’s balance, and fair.

    I am member of the public and wish journalism returns to its proffesion but how can we do this?

    Is possible that you can write a piece on how to stop media manipulation?

    Kind Regards

    Scott Beatie

  12. My question on the principle of the “Chocolate Box” (or should that be Advent Calendar?) system is if they claim the public needs to know the information how can editors/journalists justify keeping it under wraps until the appointed day?

    I suspect the probable answer would be that if they did not respect the embargo rules they would not be on future mailing lists, meaning that keeping in with the spin doctors is more important than keeping their audience informed.

    • I like Advent Calendar. It fits perfectly. ‘And on Tuesday we open the box and find the Labour Party press release on railways. We put it in the paper and wait excitedly for tomorrow…’
      This is an interesting from an experienced media operator.

      • “I like Advent Calendar. It fits perfectly.” The mechanism, yes; the meaning, no, since it is debased by comparison. So perhaps not ‘perfectly’ .

  13. I may be paranoid but have ling had suspicion that likes of Herald and Scotsman have been kept afloat by Westminster as a cost effective means of propaganda

  14. They’re held in contempt by the majority of the independence movement and a fair sized portion of the general public for good reason. No conspiracy theory. No tinfoil hattery. Hard evidence from Leveson onward to today.

    The media aren’t trusted for good reason. There are journos who are the exception to the rule, but standout individuals aren’t enough. They don’t make a media. Publishers and broadcasters do. Editors and titles, programmes and directors. For many the media has lost any semblance of balance or exception it once enjoyed. It’s lost the right to claim any moral high high ground or perception of professionalism. They pull their socks on one foot at a time. They’re fallible and as prone to screw up and indulging in and expressing the worst parts of human nature as the rest of humanity.

    ‘We’re all at it…etc’. I agree, it’s a poor excuse. It’s also one step away from ‘what’s the harm’ and ‘we were just doing as we were told’.

  15. All parties including the SNP may hand stories to the press as the article states but how many of the press releases from the SNP, or for that matter the Scottish Government, get reported?

    Whereas anything from Labour or Tories is almost certainly assured an airing.

  16. I would suggest this cynical process is rampant within the media. Hence, we get the co-ordinated ‘stories’ at the same time every freaking year, telling us things like ‘a record number of people are expected to book their next summer holiday today…according to the association of British travel agents’, or with freakish regularity every year, the so-called media telling us things like ‘Retailers are predicting record sales of cream eggs this weekend…according to a survey by Cadbury’s’.

    This isn’t fake news, it’s just cr*p news.

    The entire print media is corrupt to the nth degree, but it is especially bad in Scotland, consistently letting Scots down, with their pro-london, pro English rule obsession. Wholly unable or unwilling to even contemplate a different perspective.

    I hate to say it, but perhaps the reluctance of the SNP to tackle the clearly hostile and biased Scottish media, is that they are part of the same game. I do hope not.

    It’s just a tawdry state of affairs all round, but as one twitter comment I read said (paraphrased), ‘given we know how these stories are pre-written for newspapers in this way, just WHAT exactly do the so-called Scottish ‘journalists’ actually do?

  17. When did things start to change and what came first…chicken or the egg?

    The public hate being duped. Stuff that in yer Christmas box media.

  18. Don’t buy Britnat newspapers; don’t visit their websites. Don’t watch britnat television news; don’t pay the bbc tax.

    Buy The National. Donate to pro-indy websites.

    • I used to subscribe to the National online edition , I stopped as the amount of obviously Scotland in Union nutters were taking over the comment section , not just a few sections all of them , despite running stories about the antics of this SIU lot someone at the National is asleep at the wheel , does no one ever check or moderate at the National ? sometimes it’s worse than the Scotsman and Herald a meeting place for loons .

    • Good advice, Dan.

  19. I feel let down by the SNP reaction to our media, particularly the BBC. Here’s why.

    The SNP capitulation to play the game and not call it out for what it is lets down the whole independence movement. They are representatives of the wider Independence movement being given the opportunity to be interviewed and get inside the media bubble, yet often during the independence campaign they simply sat looking stunned. I felt let down by their Press and Comms dept.

    ‘An independent Scotland will give us the opportunity….’ was heard everyday on the BBC – a five second soundbite to counter a two minute attack piece from a multitude of sources.

    Alex Salmond said the thing he found most shocking of all during the campaign was the actions of the BBC, yet what have we learned ? We still hear the same formatted answers being trolled out daily.

    It’s boring and frankly, a second referendum will be lost due to hostile media campaigns. If you think last time was bad, you ain’t seen anything. Expect to see much worse next time.

    Countering it is so easy.

    Firstly, realise your position.

    How many people were persuaded to vote for independence by newspapers and the TV ?

    I’ll say a big fat 0. So you’ve got nothing to lose.

    Secondly, just attack the lies.

    For example

    Brian Taylor announced on Reporting Scotland that the Tories won the 2017 GE in Scotland but lost in England. Of course, the exact opposite was the truth. The first person from the SNP to appear on any BBC station after that should have just started going on about Brian Taylor.

    ‘Before I answer your question Mr Brewer, Miss Adams etc, can I just ask for your take on your BBC colleague Brian Taylor’s incredible claim that the Tories won the GE in Scotland ? ‘

    It’s not rude, but it is disruptive. The BBC have two choices, they either answer your question (because you don’t let up on it) or they stop interviewing SNP figures for stories and their claim of impartiality soon falls flat and they have a major problem.

    When you are on the air, you own that 10 second clip. It is your’s to use. That’s a fundamental shift in perspective and thinking. Therefore, common sense dictates that you would give a 10 second answer to any question given, because thats all the BBC will broadcast.

    Nicola Sturgeon did this once. After Alex Salmond had his interview with Andre Neil, the one on EU advice not being released where Neil talked all over him, Nicolas Sturgeon then did an interview with Gordon Brewer some days late and just talked all over his questions. The sound mix was a nightmare because the BBC desperately tried to edit is to look like a ‘normal’ interview, which it wasn’t. It was utterly glorious.

    More of this please. Stop playing their game because that helps no-one, it only reinforces their position.

    • I believe you are 100% correct Tartanfever, and the SNP interviewees should get training on how to do this effectively. This is THE issue we need to address, not currency, GERS or anything else, from this all else follows.

    • You’re so right

    • Well said. So true. No need to be shy and retiring with these type of people asking the questions!

    • I sent your comment in full to the SNP for reply, here’s what they said! Far from reassuring me they recognise and are on top of the problem, they seem to be in denial.

      Thank you for getting in touch Mungo.

      We live in the digital age and the media convergence that has taken place in recent years continues to impact on how people access, understand and share news. In the SNP we have embraced this.

      In terms of traditional media, and on the issue of bias, perceived or otherwise, we are continuing to work with broadcasters and media outlets – many of which include websites and newspapers who are not bound by impartiality in any way or form – with the aim of presenting a coherent, clear and positive message for Scotland.

      We recognise that some of our members and supporters get frustrated by some broadcast media coverage. Rest assured – we always contact broadcasters and ask them to correct any factual inaccuracies. Where necessary we take this further. We do this in a robust but respectful and cooperative manner.

      If you are active online and are a Twitter or Facebook user, and keen to help share our positive message, then please do.

      Yours for Scotland,
      SNP team

  20. BATEMAN BUSES……..You wait ages for one and then two come along together…..Brilliant

  21. Excellent article. Your last two posts have been rocket-fuelled and well worth the wait. In a stand-out article there is a sentence which, for me, sticks like a splinter – ‘All governments go the same way in time and if the SNP wants to play nice with the media, it deserves all it gets in return.’

    Many people will be surprised and disappointed by the relaxed attitude of the SNP to what ordinary voters find reprehensible. It is the sanguine reaction of those comfortable on the inside of a system and the reason some of us have been uncomfortable with the too-softly-softly-approach regarding the media.

    Frankly, it suggests, at the very least, a worldweary acceptance – which might make indy supporters like me, uneasy. No one would suggest that SNP representatives should maintain the white heat of purity of purpose ( think of the blood pressure!) and years of being on the receiving end of hostility might well produce a protective carapace of acquiescence. But come on, if you lose a sense of outrage over obvious insider connivance like the Chocolate Box affair, then you might wonder when the fire might kindle again. Wanting to be cozy with the media has not paid any dividends yet.

  22. Let’s not forget that this crap content is then run as news on the television – this is where the damage is magnified . Young people do not read newspapers…

  23. Steve Asaneilean

    Regardless of whether or not all parties participate in this kind of activity, it is profoundly anti-democratic.

    Placing stories then having the published unscrutinised and without any kind of journalistic enquiry or critique makes every newspaper and media organisations that run the stories no better than Soviet era Pravda.

  24. Just when everyone thought Malcolm Tucker and in ” the thick of it ” was a work of fiction with larger than life characters it starts to become all so believable ,
    Our media is total PR and probably fiction ,
    If by accident BBCs scottish news happens to appear on my TV i can without any sound or subtitle assistance , i can tell which SNP bad story they are running , it seems to go in cycles NHS – Education – Police and variants all three , like nauseating clockwork day after day week after week its relentless and depressing .
    According to our media nothing works in scotland , we are doomed from the moment we venture out our front door .
    Good things happen in scotland progress is being made , it’s all hidden under a daily avalanche of tripe .

  25. It almost sounds like the SNP have been bribed with a few sweeties by the Press machine in order that they will get a couple of nice wee stories put out in amongst the Unchecked Unionist flood of attacks. Not good enough SNP. Just out the whole rotten cabal of Scotland’s media,what have you got to lose? small sweeties,what have Unionist got to lose? The belt that’s haudin their breeks up. Come on SNP ,sort it oot.

  26. Excellent blog Derek,you deserve a medal.
    I had a wee chuckle at the latest Sunday Fail/Daily Wreckord publication figures,my God it’s unbelievable that an newspaper can still survive on what is a constant churning of utter lies.
    I remember when those rags were amongst the largest in Europe, I recall the time the Sunday Fail reached the hights of 783,000 sales in 1985,now they rely on clickbait,do they or better still,will they ever understand that we want truth,not lies.
    The latest publication of figures for daily sales are shocking and will continue to fall and I honestly believe that within the next 5 years the Fail/Wreckord will shut it’s doors for the last time unless someone has the balls to say ‘We cannot continue to print this shit any longer.’
    Derek,you will probably remember this fella,he must be spinning in his grave and if truth be told who can honestly blane him.

  27. I agree that the most worrying thing about this story is not Labour’s manipulation of the media – I doubt that anyone’s really surprised – but the poor-to-non-existent SNP response.

    I am an SNP member, currently living in London. From my experience at Branch meetings, informal groups and voluntary campaigning during the 2017 election, I think that it’s safe to say that on most questions – for example, how should we treat GERS?; how useful will the Growth Commission be?; should policy X on the latest Radical/Green/Feminist/Economic issue be parked until after we gain independence? – there is what could politely be called a wide diversity of views.

    But one issue unites every SNP member that I’ve ever spoken to – what Derek refers to as the “profound anxiety about the failure to rebut effectively, about the softly softly approach taken (with the media)”

    Going round the doors in Edinburgh on the eve of the 2017 election, a constant refrain was the lack of any serious efforts at either rebuttal or, more basically, just getting our version of events out there. While most people appreciated the media bias and understood that it might be an uphill struggle, nobody could understand why the SNP leadership didn’t seem to be even making the attempt.

    The subsequent supine surrender to the “SNP lost/Tories won/independence-off-the-table” media narrative in the immediate post-election period was equally baffling and frustrating, even though that particular issue seems to have been addressed and no longer has much traction.

    So in view of all this, I’m appalled at the reported attitude of Mhairi Hunter and the un-named SNP press officer and I completely agree with earlier comments to the effect that this approach lets down the whole independence movement and will alienate our own members.

    Because another thing that almost all SNP activists agree on is that our poor performance in the 2017 election was nothing to do with a Tory revival or a Corbyn bounce but was a direct result of running a very poor campaign that failed to enthuse our own supporters. And a shruggy “everybody does it” or “well, we do it too” approach to this story isn’t going to enthuse anybody.

    As I said, everyone understands that getting the independence/SNP point of view out there is an uphill struggle, but if you’re not even seen to be trying then why should people put their faith in you and vote for you?

    • Yes, top marks for saying exactly what the issue was over that campaign, or non campaign!!

      Sooo frustrating to soooo many of us. It was really difficult to enthuse many past yes voters when we had no message apart from apologies.

  28. Alasdair Macdonald.

    The reaction of journalists to ‘one of their own’, i.e. Mr Bateman releasing an expose of tawdry practices within their profession is akin to that of those in almost every profession I know of when someone ‘blows the whistle’ on frankly shameful, and sometimes, even criminal, behaviour. The whistleblower becomes a pariah amongst them.

    Now, most of the teachers, lawyers, nurses, doctors, engineers, plumbers, electricians, etc. whom I know are pretty decent individuals who take a pride in the service they provide and have often (‘between-you-and-me’) alerted me to cowboys and girls within their field of work. However, some, sadly, when put on the spot publicly about malpractices look at the floor and mumble things like ‘I did not quite catch what was said’ or ‘I was speaking to X at the time’ or ‘I never noticed’. Their body language tells us that they know they are failing to be honest and are failing ‘customers’, ‘clients’, ‘patients’.

    To be honest, I have myself, when telling the truth about a colleague’s poor conduct, had feelings of anxiety, guilt, apprehension. I recall on one occasion at an ad hoc union meeting regarding the discipling of a colleague, seeing colleagues raise their hands on a motion condemning the actions of ‘comrades’ who had given evidence against the person being disciplined, who afterwards told us shamefacedly, that they agreed with what we had done. And, the dreadful thing is that those of us who had given evidence while convinced we had done the right thing admitted to uneasy feelings of disloyalty.

    We are strange creatures.

    Mr Bateman is right to do what he has done and I commend him unreservedly. I say to those who are carping about his alleged ‘failure’ to be as condemnatory of former colleagues in the BBC as these carpers would like him to be, firstly, to recognise that in the past two days’ articles and in many previous articles, he has done sterling service; and, secondly, to ask, do they know as well as he does, some of the staff at the BBC, and as well as he does who do not deserve to be tarred with the same brush as, say, a well-known London-based political editor, just because they work for the same organisation? Are we to condemn the NHS because Harold Shipman was once employed by it?

  29. Another great article on this subject and happy to see you call out the petty responses from the commentariat and their enablers.

    Other than the fact the SNP are playing along with this crap this also stood out to me…

    ‘We owe to those who sustain our industry – the consumers – to be open and honest’

    Do consumers really sustain this industry anymore? They certainly don’t produce a product that benefits the consumers in any real way…

  30. Is Derek suggesting that the SNP is wrong to provide material to the press?

  31. This was in 2009, Peter Oborne – Government Controlled Media.

  32. Yet another reminder of how much we lost when Ian Bell passed away. A unique and powerful voice, from within the print media.

  33. We are now in the internet age, and have been for over 20 years. Wikipedia is 16 years old: it did more than anything to introduce the general public to the notion of referencing and citation of sources.

    As such, people are increasingly unlikely to trust information which can’t be backed up – and social media allows them to say so more loudly. The loss of trust in traditional journalism was therefore inevitable.

    The reaction of Hutcheon is frankly incredible. Never have I seen a journalist whose credibility collapsed so thoroughly in only a few years. The guy can take some credit for the Sunday Herald establishing itself in the marketplace, such was the quality of his investigative journalism. Now? He basically shills a party line.

  34. The only surprise to me Derek, is that you find it surprising.

    The criticism that jour…. people who write for papers aren’t doing their job isn’t really fair either. What they aren’t doing is what you think they are meant to be doing, journalism, that’s not their job.

  35. I could be wrong but the impression I get with this and the previous article that has been posted both are possibly written with a degree of sadness at the passing and disintegration of a profession he was previously involved with .

    The revelations into the workings of the media in Scotland make a very depressing read , probably more so to someone who has been closely involved in the media I believe that the term Journalist today has become so toxic it’s vying for position between politicians & traffic wardens in the gutter , and commands little respect .

    I doubt if this or the previous article would have been written a few years ago due to peer pressure, Comments from real investigative journalists that would have taken umbrage being linked with the more unsavoury aspects of the profession do not apply now , the current crop of paid Mercenaries – dictionary definition ” primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethical standards ” This I believe is the most revalant description of this profession now .

  36. Two things you certainly got right in amongst all of these other horrendous revelations.

    We the public do not like being conned and journalists’ (and ‘mainstream’ newspapers)are pathetic.

    Thank you.

  37. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap?. Now they are trying to engineer a teachers strike to undermine confidence in the SNP gov. This is part of a continuing plan to use so called austerity to starve the Scottish government of the cash needed to meet their commitments.

    They know you cant fool all the people all of the time, but you can fool enough of them if you control the media.

  38. Thanks Derek for exposing the level of collusion. I am appalled and need to rethink my position on voting SNP in the future.

  39. I agree though my main concern these days is what is not being reported in the Scottish press.
    Are people in Scotland who rely on the print media in Scotland aware of the complete mess of the NHS in England and its privatisation?

    Are they aware that the UK government plans to implement TTIP on steroids which will give companies the right to sue governments if decisions taken on public health grounds harm their profits. Scotland will not escape this unless we are independent.

    I am, because I read the English press but people in Scotland will get the Scottish versions of the Express and the Mail and be unaware of how much better off services are in Scotland.
    Incidentally the cheapness of these papers is the reason they are bought. They must be making a loss on them so who is subsidising them?

  40. I know its off limits but the disgraceful behavour of the BBC in Scotland over their coverage of the performance of the Health Service in Scotland , is beyond mere bias now it is bordering on causing distress to the public , the hysterical portrayal of this Service being unusable may in fact be putting people off visiting any A & E department if no other assistance is available is troubling .

    The contrived set up that was ankle man was disgraceful and bordering on total lies as was Sara Smiths 100000 missed targets by Scottish A & E departments in according to her was one week Christ when there is no story just make it up who is going to question anything the BBC churn out because our Scottish media are cheering them on , We are now deluged with a storm of total lies and misinformation .better together Aye ok .

  41. The stories themselves are more important. If you are bitter about everything, you turn into a lemon.

  42. And the reporting of the problems in the NHS got even more skewed. Listening to FMQuestions was like hearing an echo – The new leader of “Scottish” Labour echoing Col Davidson, then Willie joining in : the Better Together team are still intact. Anyone who thinks Leonard is going to be any different should perhaps think again.

  43. The Report on the Scottish Governments Assessment of the impact to Scotland of leaving the EU . has been released

    The three minute clip Included this quote by a BBC Scotland reporter ” of course this is just a projection ”

    Aye Right dear NO assessment has been released by the tory government , I wonder if they did release anything it would be relegated to 8 or 9 in the BBC running order and described as JUST A PROJECTION

    Better together , a valued part of the union MY ARSE .

  44. Guessing you caught last night’s EU exit bill amendment vote Derek?

    321-297 on Labour’s amendment. Take a wild guess where our thirteen Tories voted?

    Personally, I wasn’t shocked. Wasn’t surprised either. Disgusted though? Yes, that’s a good word. Disgusted. Pretty much full of contempt for all things Tory about now. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they were always going to vote in the interests of Conservative government. It’s what they are. It’s who they are. Party ideology before the needs of the people. Party ideology before the rights of the people. Party ideology before the institutions of the people.

    And what an ideology it is.

    Those thirteen Tories just sold out the rights and protections of Scotland’s electorate at the drop of a hat. Think about that. Your parliament, your rights and your needs.

    I’d say you’ll have a choice to make soon. You can let those Tories know what you think about their attempt to remove your rights and depower your institutions.

    The bill in question and what it means:

    • The Tory Scottish MPs effectively ripped away the veil from the devolution settlement last night , all the work done convincing the public that Scots had actually gained something by voting for devolution ,was effectively trashed ,

      Was it all just a exercise in mass deception , a clever ploy to keep the jocks quiet , it started with Dewar proclaiming the Labour Party had delivered devolved government to Scotland , later to be caught lying , as it emerged in fact it was the EU who made them deliver some kind of devolved administration .

      So the Tory party who represents 20% of the electorate got their way , they never wanted a parliament , most of them still don’t recognise it , so well done them , or so they believe , if Scots whatever their political persuasion don’t get really bloody posed off with this , then they don’t deserve a parliament ,

      That’s it on your knees you useless cowards .

      • I honestly don’t know who to detest more at this point. The useless wastes of space who call themselves Tory MPs or our media masterfully ignoring this crime. A crime against a devolution settlement THEY helped push on Scotland’s electorate.

        Had we anything like a representative media, at least half of it should be shouting about this backstabbing from the rooftops.

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