Side By Side

Two interviews here side by side, for two people who will never be side by side in just about anything.

Every time I see them on TV together I can’t help thinking that Kirsty Wark has such a visceral hatred for Alex Salmond that when she is confronted with him she leaves the realm of the professional interviewer and enters that of the outraged teenager…

The Beebie-Jeebies

listHeebie-jeebies or heebie jeebies: American English idiom used to describe depression or anxiety.

Beebie-jeebies: The feeling some people are likely to get after reading BBC coverage of the Scottish Independence Referendum, most noticeably a sense of feeling warned.

A while ago I wrote a comedy article in which I made fun of the BBC for inserting the word “warning” in all their stories about independence.

I wasn’t actually the first to do this, former UK ambassador Craig Murray read out a list of titles from the BBC coverage of the referendum which all contained the word, BBC Scotlandshire has been making fun of it for a while and the Scottish-American site Scotland-US published the list I have put in the image.

But those are only in the titles.

A little further investigation seems to show that is almost mandatory to have that word in there, whether the story is essentially positive or not.

Allow me to demonstrate…

The story Independence ‘Could Spark Jobs Boom’ contains…1

The story Scottish independence: Swinney on opportunities of voting ‘Yes’ contains


Scottish independence: Salmond on ‘blueprint for a better Scotland’ contains 3

Row over UK warships work on Clyde post-referendum4

Scottish independence: Questions raised over oil fund


So my question is this…

Does this reporting give you the Beebie-Jeebies or have you just stopped listening?

The Scottish Independence Podcast 32 – Lynda Williamson

6a00d83452241169e2014e894ec668970d-320wiFor the 32nd episode of the Scottish Independence Podcast (well, actually if you count the specials it is more than that, call it the 32nd interview) I spoke with Lynda Williamson, who works at Newsnet Scotland.

We spoke about how Newsnet got started. What were the reasons and motivations for setting up? What do they hope to achieve with it?

a9fba11e93123638a7030256209408f7From there we moved on to to Lynda’s reasons for supporting Independence and finally on to the broader media scene in Scotland, why things generally tend to come from one side more than the other, and who else is trying to provide a corrective.

Hope you enjoy…

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes

P.S. If you’d like to help this and the other podcasts keep going, please go here.

Why Always This Way?

a4_booYesterday the Scottish Green Party voted that in the event of Independence, there should be a separate Scottish currency. This vote shows that there is strength in depth at Yes Scotland as the groups within the umbrella organisation have shown their ability to represent a number of views and options that would be available after a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.

Would it come as a surprise to you that this positive reporting was NOT how the Scotsman covered the story.

Let’s try it with a much more neutral tone.

Yesterday the Scottish Green party internally voted for an independent Scottish currency in the event of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum. The Green party, who have only 2 MSPs and are therefore unlikely to be the sole arbiters of this decision given a Yes vote, are in line with many economists and activists in this view, though the SNP and other campaign groups such as Business for Scotland would prefer to keep UK sterling as the currency. 

I think that is a bit more factual but how do you think it was covered in the Scotsman?

Yes, you guessed it.. Shock! Horror! Disaster for Yes campaign!

Greens CurrencyThe decision to cover things in the way they do is an editorial decision, not a journalistic necessity.

Never forget it.

An Education, with Glenn Greenwald

I’ve rarely had so much fun watching a Newsnight interview.

In the course of this interview Glenn Greenwald patiently explains the following to Kirsty Wark – and all of them seem to come as new information or new ideas for her…

  • What journalism is for
  • All government claims are not necessarily true
  • How human beings make (or should make) decisions

However, aside from the simple things he spells out for her, this is really a remarkable interview as it shows everything that can be good about journalism up against everything that can be bad about it.

One person is trying to expose government duplicity and the other is frantically trying to defend it or deflect away from it. On this evidence the BBC could have taught Pravda a thing or two.

Furthermore, after having lost the debate, she moves on to trying to ramp up the scariness of crossing one’s overlords…



Talking Hard

I listened to Hardtalk with Alistair Darling this morning.

In the Independence referendum part of the interview Darling gives the usual line that we have come to expect from the No campaign, though is a little more conciliatory to the idea of Scotland being able to go it alone than we are used to.BGTw04BCQAIgNH8.jpg large

Nevertheless there are a couple of moments when he gets into difficulty and changes the subject and/or resorts to attacking Alex Salmond when the question had nothing to do with Salmond – standard politician stuff and not really worth going out of your way to listen to it.

I felt the interviewer, Alan Little, did quite well in the Scotland section of the interview – even if he let him get out of a few easy questions when he had him struggling.

That said, I think in the earlier part of it (on the economy), there were a couple of things to note.

Firstly, they started with an assumption that an economic recovery is under way and both continued on that theme for a while. I think many people would take issue with that. If it were underway, I’d also be tempted to ask which people are experiencing the benefits of this recovery?

One question in particular struck me though. Darling was asked if Ed Balls was the right man to get Labour’s economic message across. Darling replied that he believed that Balls’ analysis of the crisis has been correct throughout. At that point the journalist said something bizarre…

“It’s not a question of whether he is right or wrong, it’s a question of whether the public trust him”.

Neatly showing in one easy phrase what is wrong with journalism.

It should be the job of journalists to find out whether he is right or wrong. If he is right, then the job should be to explain why he is right. That wasn’t entered into.

The public may or may not trust him. What concerns me more is that the person with the right answers (who I personally don’t believe to be Ed Balls) can be so casually dismissed because he might be considered “unpopular”.

Preferring to concern themselves with who is more popular and thereby turning all politics into popularity contests in which most popular=most correct is probably not a good substitute for neither journalism nor politics. I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting they should be more worried about finding out who really is right.

Sorry if this is nitpicking, but this was Hardtalk – on which you’re not supposed to get away with anything you say.




Paxman Is Becoming Increasingly Absurd

We’ve all seen that interviewees are getting the better of Jeremy Paxman more and more often. From his occasional spats with Salmond, to the Prime Minister of Iceland, a former podcast guest of mine and a memorable kicking he got from a Plaid Cymru economist, we’ve all seen it happening.

He seems determined now just to be curmudgeonly for the sake of it but with no point in site. He has also been described as “certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman”.

But it isn’t just politics. I was sitting on the train happily listening to a BBC science program (at time of writing it’s the second show down the list) and even they now seem to be taking potshots at him.

So I cut this together in case you missed it…