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Journalistic Treason….

Submitted by on September 30, 2013 – 6:08 pmNo Comment


Yesterday saw people from around the country take part in one of the biggest marches in Mancunian history, though readers of the right-wing media will have been oblivious to the whole thing. This article from Jonathan Schofield of Manchester Confidential takes a look why:

You get the call every now and then from BBC Radio Manchester to put in an appearance.

So today (Monday 30 September) before any trace of dawn had bothered to crack in the east, I found myself in Quay House in MediaCityUK rifling through the papers looking for six topics to talk about with the straight-talking Alan Beswick.

One had to be the rally in Manchester city centre the day before.

Fifty thousand people had turned up for the Trade Union Congress organised event. They were protesting at the direction Coalition policy was taking the Holy Grail of the Welfare State, the National Health Service (NHS).

As far as I could see there were no other rallies taking place across the country with 50,000 people involved. Especially rallies concerning one of the fundamental aspects of British life. It was a topic that grabbed the attention and had to be talked about.

Remember this was a rally on the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in town. It was a rally providing graphic illustration of the growing polarisation within UK politics.

On one side were the Unions and Andy Burnham, rapidly turning into the only credible Shadow Cabinet figure, saying: “David Cameron needs to be forcefully reminded that he has never been given the public’s permission to put the NHS up for sale. These figures reveal the frightening scale and pace of NHS privatisation since Cameron’s Health Act came in.”

On the other side were the Coalition spokespeople saying: “(There is) absolutely no government policy to privatise NHS services. The NHS will stay free for everyone, but it’s right that patients should get the best service – regardless of who provides it.”

Choose your politics and pick your side.

To add deeper resonance to the whole proceedings, the TUC was founded (oddly enough by a Conservative printer, Samuel Nicholson) in 1868 round the corner from the conference, the NHS was founded five miles away in Trafford in 1948 and the rally walked through part of the site of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 – a mass protest key to the march of democracy in Britain.

Enough to get your teeth into there for any journalist and columnist. Surely?

But no.

Reading through the papers on a table in the snazzy office at 6am in the morning and ingesting coffee through a drip, I found The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The Sun and even The Daily Telegraph had largely ignored the rally. There was print-journalism silence aside from the odd sentence: although there was a huge amount of concern about Tess Daly’s yellow dress on Strictly.

The Daily Mirror and the Manchester Evening News both covered it, the latter comprehensively and very well – thank the Lord.

But I couldn’t understand how this major public protest didn’t merit mention in the other papers. So I rang the news desk at the Daily Mail and was told: “We make decisions on what goes in the paper based on what interests our readers.”

Well yeah, but pure politics of course. All the papers that ignored the rally are of the Right and those that mentioned it of the Left. But let’s put that aside, either way this huge procession through Manchester was news. News with a capital N.

express cover

Right-wing papers: completely impartial

Don’t the Express, Sun, Mail and Telegraph have millions of readers in the North? Don’t they have millions of readers who use the NHS everywhere?

Shame on the editors for betraying the news responsibity of their newpapers.

A clue to the failure to feature the rally might be the lack of bother.

Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said: “This was the largest protest Greater Manchester Police have had to manage and I would like to thank those who attended for behaving in a peaceful and lawful manner.

“It was clear the intentions of the organisers and those who were involved in the march wanted to protest peacefully as is their democratic right to do so.

“It is pleasing that with a crowd of 50,000 there were only two arrests for low level offences.”

The Daily Mail and the rest would have reported the rally if trouble had broken out, indeed it would have been good ammunition with which to beat a violent Left. Conversely as nothing happened the papers might have had to concede the reasonableness and orderliness of the protesters. And that wouldn’t do.

I was looking through and talking about the papers in the BBC of course.

The BBC that has moved five major departments out of London to acquire a less metropolitan accent. As a tax-funded institution this is only right.

There’s no imperative for private media groups to do the same.

But the fact those same papers, which have routinely lambasted the BBC break out across the country (not just to MediaCity) as a waste of money, failed to report on a huge rally in Manchester concerning issues of major national importance might be seen as instructive to their northern readers.

Folks, they appear to be saying, we’re really not bothered about you. They’re proving, unlike the BBC, they aren’t really national newspapers at all – or selectively so at best.

As stated above, major news should always be reported irrespective of politics; these papers have committed journalistic treason.

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