Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: leveson

If in doubt make it up, just like the papers and bloggers

In the last few days I have had a taste, an amuse bouche as to what it’s like to be the subject of a press story rather than being a commentator on them.

The news of my engagement to Charlotte Leslie ‘broke’ late Wednesday night on-line. First it was on the Bristol Post site followed by The Times 2 article. This second article was the one we did together, where they asked us questions to do the story. No other paper asked us anything.

Why did we do it? The BBC asked me to be overtly open about my relationship with Charlotte, me having told them in early October that it was serious. I had certainly not hidden it. I had been see out many times with Charlotte and told anyone who would listen we were together but the BBC wanted me to let the listeners know, to do a press article and to be open to everyone. Why? Impartiality. To protect the BBC’s impartiality, to protect me from accusations of partiality, to protect the audience and to make sure that I can’t be accused of being partial in the future. So be it and so it was done as I love my job and feared losing it.

What has been interesting in 48 hours since the original article was published is the response and the subsequent reporting in other papers and on-line. It was not what I was expecting in any way. The comments where lovely. Some were nasty but that says more about them than the story. Freedom of speech is a right we all enjoy, so long as it is based in truth. Ed Miliband and Lord Fink may have found this taking to their lawyers on Wednesday afternoon following PMQs.

I am a private person who has a personal life. I am with Charlotte because I love her but I was dreading the reaction to our going public about something very personal. The real prospect of some putting 2+2 and getting 22 was scary.

The fact is that I’m not card-carrying member of any political party, I’m not a union member nor have I ever been one of those who follow one political party or its ideals. I question those who are as I question those who follow a single faith. I have political views and I have faith but I have many questions on both. Those who claim they follow or believe without questions or doubts worry me greatly. They should worry you too. As Billy Connelly once joked ‘never trust anyone with just one book’. What will be interesting in the coming days and weeks will be those who will claim I have ever been politically partial. Find it, prove it and I will happily admit it.

My biggest concern has been the reporting of the story. The original article in The Times was fine, with a few odd points and some odd bending of the facts. The other articles and reports were frankly full of bollocks, not least of which that I am in my 50’s. I was born in 1966, I am currently 48 and will be 49 in October. That makes me in my 40’s. On the face of it a mistake? No. It was a lie to make me older, to make the age difference between me and Charlotte bigger and therefore make her look bad. Disgraceful, partial and just wrong. So much for press accuracy post Leveson.

This was the first time in my life I have been in the papers and they got it wrong, with a partial agenda. Other on-line sites also blogged and wrote some utter tosh too. The result is this. I will never trust what I read in any paper ever again and I urge you to do the same. As for blogs they are fine for thoughts and ideas. Blogs that claim facts with out source and evidence or are partial in any way Please read them with a large pinch of salt at the ready, much like the bible, The Daily Mail or any book by Jeffery Archer.

My politics are mine, my job is to question everything as is my personal persuasion. The fact is I was born on the 2nd October 1966 and I look forward to being 49 later this year, and, if I’m very lucky, married to Charlotte too.

This last week has been about the weak.

In Westminster last week the Leader of the opposition was called weak by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister was called weak by the Leader of the Opposition. Next week neither will be there as they will both have a note from their mum’s saying they ‘can’t go as they are being bullied’.

Also it is the weak and vulnerable who will suffer with the coming winter fuel bills of the big six energy companies and their average of 9.2% increases in energy prices. What is actually being done about that? Naff all in reality. The ‘Big 6’ effectively said ‘not me mate’, Labour’s price freeze idea is totally potty as it can never work in the global energy market of today, the Coalition’s proposal of a competition review will take 12 months to reach a conclusion and shifting the Green tax into general taxation only mean you will pay more, just differently. It is going to be a long, cold winter for many so warm, snuggly Christmas jumpers might not be such a bad present idea this year.

All this has occurred against the background of Russell Brand calling for a revolution against the political class of today, those who seek to make a profit and pretty much anyone who is not him or who think like him. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

Yet it is free speech that is actually under threat by the very actions of those who benefit most from it, make money out of it and use it to fill the pages of our daily and Sunday papers.

Whether we end up the Royal Charter to govern and control the actions of the press, or they continue to ‘mark their own homework’ as the campaign group Hacked Off call it, one thing is for certain. Thanks to the actions of some journalists and maybe others on trial right now, our press and journalism will never be the same again in the UK.

But this is far bigger problem than just our UK press.

The world looks to us for a free press. Our tradition of free speech and a free press first gained its printed voice in the mewing 17th century newspapers and in the articles of Milton against the puritanical views of Cromwell and his the English Republic. If our press falls under parliamentary control other governments will use our newly ‘state controlled’ media as the very example they need to control, govern, censor what can and can’t be printed. Then it will be the same for broadcasting. Mr Brand may yet get his revolution, but perhaps not quite on the terms he was elucidating.

Why did all this happen? Why did the press do what they did? What made it okay for the press to rifle through the bins of Steve Coogan, ‘convict’ Bristol’s Christopher Jefferies on a series of front pages or hack into the phone of the then missing school girl Milly Dowler? You.

You bought the papers. You bought the stories. You chose the front page of the paper, you fed the beast. It is all down to you. And it’s down to me too. No paper, no journalist, no editor would have done any of the things revealed in the Leveson enquiry if you didn’t buy them.

So now we may not have lost the sensational headlines, but we have lost threatening, penetrating investigative journalism, challenging opinion and, most of all, the freedom of the press that we all enjoyed, maybe just a little too much.

The press will be weak from this last week.

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