This morning I read a couple of posts on Facebook that both set out clear and reasonable concerns regarding the work of journalists and their comments in broadcasts or published in printed settings. Just like Politicians the claims and arguments of journalists require a great deal of care to avoid misrepresenting the true issues that they claim to be putting forward for their readers or the people who listen and watch. One of the challenges that journalists face is that their words often get edited and in the case of the printed media their headlines get written by other people and of course in all settings there are more hidden people who influence what the journalists do and what they put forward. My view is that some of the time the journalists who are asking questions from TV screens to Ministers who are presenting daily comments about COVID-19 do get things wrong. Any live aspects will be more challenging. However sometimes they get things spot on which is always very impressive. Inevitably there is a much larger section of time where they may not be as accurate or effective as we would all like, but they are simply dealing with a daily requirement and most of us are far from perfect in what we do most days of the week whatever we do for our working lives. So when Lord Sugar mades his claim that focuses on a number of individuals such as:
A message to all our Negative UK Press – including Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC, Robert Peston of ITV, Beth Rigby of Sky, Piers Morgan of ITV, James O’Brien LBC, BBC News in general and all the other general UK press….We do not want or need blame….They got the “mood” wrong in the Referendum, Brexit, General Election and now this Coronavirus crisis.
It raises all sorts of challenges as of course each of them gets things well, wrong and in between. I would be honest that I find Piers Morgan wrong far more often than any of the others, but then I also find Alan Sugar wrong many times when he speaks and he often seems very arrogant when he is in public settings. Some people find Kuenssberg wrong more often than I do and no doubt the others too. However I do agree with Sugar that over the COVID-19 period, that “we do not want constant criticism of our Government”. That said all of the journalists need to be able to criticise the Government some of the time, partly because the Government is presenting its approach over COVID with no scrutiny from anyone else and so this puts the journalists in a very difficult position. There are certainly some serious problems that have emerged over the last few weeks from the Government and someone needs to challenge these or else we will be in a very unreal setting. Equally there are some very questionable pieces of journalism that need to be raised as being unfit for purpose.
One of these came today in the Daily Mail from two journalists, Jason Groves and Josh White in a front page article which claims that the Trade Unions who are responsible for caring for the teachers in our Schools are actually causing them problems because they would like to go back to work to allow the pupils to start back. This article raises several challenges for me. One of course is that members of the National Union of Journalists may know that Trade Unions can make mistakes too, and can on occasions be too militant, but that they are primarily in place to protect the workers, whether they are teachers or journalists. If it was clear that most teachers were keen to return to Schools on the same basis as they left back at the end of March, then of course this piece might be accurate. However many teachers are far from convinced that they can teach classes of 15 pupils, or that their classrooms can be arranged with 2m gaps or that their pupils will stay apart during the times when they are out of the classroom during breaks. Indeed I know of many teachers who are very nervous about their own health if they have schools that are full or even half full of pupils, some of whom might be carriers of COVID-19 and whose behaviour may mean that the condition will be transferred to the teachers very quickly.
Perhaps Alan Sugar could spend some of his time reflecting on the challenges that our Ministers are presenting as well as on the problems that some of our journalists are causing. Perhaps Jason Groves and Josh White could spend some time volunteering in Schools to find out what teachers do genuinely care about and then they will discover that the NUT and other trade unions, just like the NUJ are wanting to care for the people they represent, most of the time and that most teachers at the moment do not support the view of their front page. Indeed I am very irritated by this article, but then like my friend I would usually ignore the Daily Mail which is clearly far more damaging than the BBC ever is.