News Media & Political Journalists: CORBYN WATCH! BREAKING NEWS! CORBYN MAY HAVE BEEN INHALING & EXHALING
Me: Erm…ok…fine……Labour reshuffle…..ok….so what about the lack of adequate investment in flood defences that exacerbated the impact….
News Media & Political Journalists: CORBYN WATCH!!! BREAKING NEWS! CORBYN MAY HAVE WORN A TIE. WHAT COULD THIS MEAN? WE’LL BE HERE TO SPECULATE!!!!
Me:…..right….yeah….ok…..Labour ….again….what about Cameron’s decision to potentially end the collective responsibility of his cabinet over campaigning in the EU ref…..
News Media & Political Journalists: CORBYN WATCH! ALL CORBYN NEWS ALL THE TIME. BREAKING! JEREMY CORBYN DID A THING!
Me: ……sure…….again…..but what about Jeremy Hunt & the first planned junior doctors strike in forty-years….
News Media & Political Journalists: CORBYN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have you heard about the Labour reshuffle. Its the only news. I try not to be one of those people (part of the ‘tin-foil hat brigade’) that claims the BBC is biased against my political perspective. I know certain elements of the news media (those owned by Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, Viscount Rothermere, the Barclay Brothers) the usual suspects – The Daily Mail, The Express, The Sun, The Tele(Tory)graph – have their agenda and are supportive of the political party that represents the interests of their owners.
I try to give the BBC the benefit of the doubt (and play devils advocate) the institution itself is not inherently biased. In my opinion it walks a difficult tightrope between the left & the right. It will always be seen as biased by someone. I do believe however that individual journalists within the BBC (and other newspapers & institutions) let their own political bias dictate (however deliberately) the way in which they cover particular stories. I do honestly believe journalists (most journalists) intend to be objective in how they critique & discuss the political issues of the day. Yet, I am guessing that given they live, work & socialise with those of a similar background (statistically Oxbridge educated – not a dig at Oxford or Cambridge, some of my friends studied there) this distorts their view of what issues are important. Who you speak to, drink with, eat with & live with, changes the way you see the world.
With the Labour reshuffle this was very evident. I think there was a disproportionate focus on Jeremy Corbyn re-organising his Shadow-cabinet in comparison to other issues. Obviously there was the usual diatribe from the right wing media. They made plenty of semantic choices and use of language suggesting a ‘disaster’, a ‘shambolic’ ‘revenge reshuffle‘ which was a ‘purge’ of ‘moderates’. Basically painting Jeremy Corbyn as a Marxist dictator sending his detractors to the ‘gulag’ of the backbenches….
I am not here to write about that so much as this is what was expected from the ‘usual suspects’ of the right wing media – whatever Jeremy Corbyn does he will be painted as a socialist devil incarnate by the Daily Mail. If he breathes the The Sun will comment on his ‘Maoist inhalation’. If he wears a track-suit The Express will say how he wore clothes….you know who else wore clothes…..Lenin!
In November, when the Media Reform Coalition analysed nearly 500 pieces across eight national newspapers, it found 60% of their articles were ‘negative’, meaning they were openly hostile or expressed animosity or ridicule. Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a ‘neutral’ stance (133 articles).
I do not have a problem with discussion on by the media of the Labour party. Its good that Labour is subject to media scrutiny, the party should be critiqued for its choices, and this is important for the national conversation on which political party should be in government. Labour needs to prove itself to the electorate. What I do find ‘mildly irritating’ (to put it lightly) is the sheer obsession of certain political journalist on every minor thing Labour does when compared to the scrutiny they put the Conservatives (the party in government) under.
For example, Laura Kuenssberg, the the Political Editor of BBC News. As regards the Labour reshuffle, in my humble opinion, she tweeted far too much about it, especially when compared to other equally (if not more important political issues) that needed to be covered.
Or Adam Boulton, former political editor of Sky News, and current presenter (Murdoch’s flagship purveyor of right wing bias…I mean news channel). Now, I expect him to hold some inherent bias as he works for Murdoch, journalistic integrity aside (which I want to believe he did hold at some point). Yet he is the face of a major news network and political commentator. He should focus on the Labour reshuffle AND other issues:
I am not (I hope) the kind of person you would find in a town centre with a sandwich board saying ‘Freemason Lizard People Run The Banks‘. What I want to vent about is ‘perspective’. Yes, the Labour reshuffle of the shadow cabinet is a political issue. I am glad that political journalists are covering it & scrutinising the leader of my political party. Jeremy Corbyn should be critiqued, he is the leader of Britiain’s opposition and his decisions should be reviewed, otherwise how can he more effectively present himself as a candidate for PrimeMinister. What I do take issue with is the the sheer obsession with every minor thing he does. I think it distracts from levying deserved criticism at the door of the Conservatives (the party in government) for their policy decisions. In the national discussion on important issues, the media has an important role to play in holding the government to account. However when coverage is focused on a comparative non-story, it tacitly distorts the public discourse on politics & gives the party in power a free ride.
Labour MP Richard Burgon noted this:
As did Owen Jones:
Outside of the bubble of the ‘Westminister’, away from the corridors and lobbies, where journalists spend hours perched like vultures by the offices of politicians listening in & speculating, ordinary people want the government held to account when it does something wrong. The public interest is served when covering the Labour reshuffle, but when it receives a disproportionate level of coverage in comparison to other issues, it is not. On the the 5th January for example, at the height of the reshuffle ‘chaos’ David Cameron announced that government ministers would be free to campaign on either side of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. And yet, despite the importance of this decision, essentially ending the collective responsibility of his cabinet, most of the media spotlight was on Michael Dugher as he went from one studio to the next. Due to the disproportionate level of media attention, the Labour reshuffle has been a great opportunity for the Conservatives to bury bad news. They are getting away with murder.
Again I want to emphasise I do not think all the British media is inherently biased in this instance. Labour & Jeremy Corbyn are partly to blame, the reshuffle has given the media exactly what it loves, the sharks can smell blood and they are having a feeding frenzy. Labour needs to get organised fast.
However, a greater portion of blame goes to the media outlets themselves, focusing on every tiny, minute detail of the reshuffle, many journalists, faces of Britain’s political scene have shirked on their duty to the public to hold the government to account. Yes, Her Majesty’s opposition should be called out when it ‘f**ks up’, but when high profile journalists & broadcasters give what is in my opinion disproportionate attention to one issue, it buries other equally important news storys. The Conservatives have f**ked up so much recently, (and as with Labour) deserve to be hauled over the coals when they do.
Anyway, rant over. I do hope political journalists get some perspective. Effective government requires it be under the microscope and trial of public opinion as equally as the opposition. But I won’t hold my breath….
By Frederick Antonio Gallucci | International Law LLM | @gibblegbble