I had planned an extended blog this morning on ‘Labour’s Last Redoubt – I’m an internationalist!’ But it will have to wait until later today, because one or two items in todays press require a quick response.
I have defended the media, especially the BBC and print journalism on a number of occasions against those who think that all media are biased against nationalism and Scotland’s independence, and that it doesn’t really matter anyway because bloggers and alternative media are going to supplant them anyway. This has led me to point out, among other things, that political bloggers and alternative media in fact feed upon media and the press, and would have rather thin blogs without them.
But I have also complained of the lack of any real investigative journalism in Scotland, and the reliance of television and the press on the same old circle of panellists and commentators – the usual suspects. An exception to this can be radio, and often the key story and insight of the week comes from radio, especially Radio Four, where the real story of the week before last broke on the Today programme on defence, and the nuclear issue for the UK of Scotland’s independence. Here I must say that a blogger’s role in recognising the significance of this story and teasing out the elements of the debate appeared to have triggered the belated wider awareness of its significance. That blogger was me, and the blog was Nuclear bases, subs and Trident on Today programme
Anyway the press, including today’s newspapers, have belatedly latched on. Do I claim credit? No, but I claim a role. And by the way, guys, your analysis is still superficial and has still failed to grasp what really matters in the defence story. Earn your corn, for God’s sake!
SNP INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN
A few weeks ago, I attended an SNP meeting in the old Broughton School, now Drummond Community School in Edinburgh. The meeting, on 15th December 2011, was addresses by Angus Robertson MP and Derek Mackay MSP, the two central strategists in the SNP’s independence campaign.
The meeting was no secret, and it was made clear that there was no restriction on attendance – it was not a closed meeting, and branch members were encouraged to bring along non-party guests who might be curious about the SNP and its independence strategy. The open invitation included the comment “This is no ordinary meeting as we will map out how we will help secure Scottish independence.” Indeed, Angus Robertson asked the large audience, around 250 to 300, if they had brought an outsider, e.g. a non-party, non-affiliated voter who might be interested - and if not, why not?
There was no security, no requirement to show an invitation, and those attending were simply invited to sign a guest book. At no point in the meeting was confidentiality requested or suggested, and I remember looking around and wondering where the press people were, because although I assume they weren’t formally invited, there was nothing whatsoever to have prevented them attending. I am certain that Angus Robertson and Derek Mackay operated on the assumption that, like any political meeting these days that is not enveloped in iron security measures – and probably most of those anyway – that it would be reported, and indeed probably recorded surreptitiously. There ain’t no secrets no more, if you will forgive the double negatives …
But today’s Sunday Herald, pages 6 and 7, over three weeks after this meeting took place, bursting with excitement, presents a report of the meeting billed as EXCLUSIVE BY PAUL HUTCHEON. Eat your hearts out, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward!
Paul Hutcheon breathlessly reveals his Deep Throat -
“At a meeting held at a school in Edinburgh last month, details of which have been leaked to this newspaper, psychologist Claire Howell was present alongside Robertson and Mackay.”
The article goes on in similar vein, with a rash of quotes in inverted commas, to maintain the spurious air of secrecy, one which was totally absent in the structure and tone of the meeting.
Not one word of the ‘exclusive’ presented anything that was not already in the public domain. If Paul, or any other journalist had taken the bother to find out that the meeting was scheduled, they could simply have attended as an interested party – no slouch hat, raincoat, and heavily-muffled face would have been required, Paul.
Of course, for the Sunday Herald, surrendering yet again to its tabloid instincts, the story is the ‘guru’, not the open content of the meeting. After all, if you have a three-week old ‘exclusive’ from a ‘leak’ from an open meeting, you do have to try and make it look like something. Journalism is a hard game these days, and anything is better than getting off your arse, out of the office and doing some real digging.