When all this Corona stuff kicked off I never thought I would be praising Piers Morgan as much as I have. Mr Morgan has become the face of ‘gotcha’ journalism over the past month or so, continuously holding the government to account for their actions, using his aggressive interview demeanour on those that he has previously sought to protect.
It has led to many criticising him for his actions. Saying it is not his places and he should be more “positive” about the country “sticking together.” The problem is it is his place to be looking for the mistakes our government makes but in the past he has been more concerned about making a scene with more trivial worries. Headline grabbers but no real substance.
When you study journalism you are taught the theory of the Fourth Estate. The clergy, the nobility and the commoners (most of us) are the other three, whilst the fourth, news media, is tasked with holding the others to account. To find the real truth in what they say and to reveal the mistakes made from authority. This role as the opposition, along with actually providing the public with facts, is the reason journalism exists. So even if it isn’t always positive, it must be protected.
Journalists fighting journalists
Journalists complaining about journalists is becoming more and more common. I think after all the misinformation over the past few years regarding Brexit and Elections we have reached a fever point in which the bullshit is just too pungent.
Some complaints surrounding misinformation I have found a tad ironic but the mistakes from each political wing of media can’t be ignored. The metaphorical arse licking from the Telegraph is starting to draw a lot of parallel’s with the obsessive, destructive nature of The Guardian. Sometimes it’s just a turn of phrase, an unnecessary choice of word, setting out to please their masters and inevitably infuriate the other side. The dark arts of print media.
If you look at the headline to The Guardian’s investigation into Cummings on SAGE, this is an easy example to work from. “Revealed: Dominic Cummings is on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19” All the drama and razmatas of a breaking story, it’s even a secret group! Except when you say “on” it implies he is part of the group when really he was just in the room. It is little details like this that wind up the other side so much it really dampens the debate. Making the arguments more about the standard of journalism rather than investigating the mistakes the government makes.
The new found praise of Morgan is almost as complex as the odd situation stemming from the government’s opposition. You have Keir Starmer, the new leader, being praised for his PMQ’s within some circles, then criticised for a lack of anger by devout Corbynista’s. He has been lauded for his measured approach but then lynched for a lack of anger by others. Opening up the scabs from old wounds of Labour’s past at a time in which a careful and constructive opposition is essential.
You have to think of it from the perspective of Starmer – Corbyn had a very tough time from the media. Yes, he should be praised for standing up to the big time editors, the Tory donors and the rest of the 1% and yes he never got a fair ride from the press. But the fact remains that it didn’t work out so why would Starmer, the new boy, want to go in all guns blazing?
Muddying the waters even further, in what is an ever changing river of decisions is never going to help. It’s simple political PR. Moaning about absolutely everything makes people stop listening to the valid points, just look how easy it was for the press to paint a crazy persona of Corbyn. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise, that for some who are meant to be on his side, this isn’t enough.
The effectiveness, or lack of, an opposition was Corbyn’s greatest weakness. Internal fighting and the press tornado made Corbyn a laughing stock so he could never do his job properly, which means many want Starmer to be just as aggressive with his clean slate. However, some form of respect is necessary for you to stand against your opposite number and tell them the mistakes they have made. At the moment, Starmer has a lot of respect from within the Commons, Labour can’t let that be ruined from within.
Let the Media do its job
I don’t really like Piers Morgan. His record as a ‘journalist’ is pathetic (phone hacking, lies, horrible headlines, etc), he holds a lot of frankly horrible opinions and I think his shouty style is overly American and arrogant. But I can’t ignore his persistence in standing up for something that he believes is right.
At the moment all you can see is criticism of the press being too critical which is a bit ironic considering how many ignored the slurs on Jeremy Corbyn for so long. We have got too used to the press focusing on gossip instead so any real judgement so critique is just labelled as “negativity”. The point is the press is meant to go digging into the decisions made by those those in power, not to immediately blame, but to ensure they don’t just do what they want.
We can’t allow the rhetoric of “we all have to be positive” to act as an excuse for not answering tough questions. The daily press conferences are a difficult watch because you can see the journalists looking for that headline answer and this shouldn’t be what they crave. But to simply discount any ‘gotcha’ moment as irrelevant because it puts the politicians under pressure is blind to the truth.
At the end of the day no one person should take the fall for this mess. This doesn’t mean that mistakes haven’t been made though and we shouldn’t spare politician’s blushes because they’re under a lot of stress or “doing the best they can.” The stick some journalists are getting at the moment is probably a good thing to keep them on their toes. Don’t let the politicians convince you the journalists are the enemy though, that’s exactly what they want you to think.