Sorry seems to be the hardest word

A guest post by Samuel Miller (Macart)

Yeah, so the circus that is memogate rumbles on in the form of  a possible slap on the wrist for the Telegraph.

This is expected to be delivered by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) apparently. An article in today’s National (*) covers the ground on the whole ‘sorry’ mess far more effectively and comprehensively than needs repeated here, but that it should take such an effort to elicit any kind of apology from a member of the press says something in and of itself.

Where did it all go wrong with our fourth estate? When did they stop being our watchdogs, our guardians and start running with the foxes? Has it truly always been this way, or was there a time when they performed an essential public service? Have we simply in more recent times had the scales lifted from our eyes?

The media were meant to hold corrupt and inept politics to account. On the flip side, they were meant to bring to our notice the good as well as the bad in our governance, to provide balance. Except they don’t appear to do that, do they? Our media seems to be failing us badly just when we needed them most. Their owners and publishers allowed a heady mix of personal agendas and political affiliation to colour everything. Not unexpected you might say. Indeed there is absolutely nothing wrong in the press having their own editorial opinion/political direction. There’s no such thing as a truly objective point of view from anyone and it would surely take a will of iron to produce positive articles about people you consider to be your ideological opposition or whose policies may affect your corporate interests. But what happens when it runs out of control? What happens when caution and professionalism is thrown to the wind in favour of an editorial slant?

Isn’t an attempt to provide balance and professionalism the very thing which would give the press a moral authority? The ability to rise above personal beliefs and agendas, give credit where its due, report facts instead of unverified hearsay, empathize rather than sneer and dissect rather than smear. To put aside your personal beliefs and adhere to a professional standard. Aren’t these the very things that would give people a reason to trust and invest in their media?

We live in a sound bite age where the headline (or the bottom line) has become more important than the content and shock value more important than research and verification. This is a world where spads, politicians, self interest and personal agendas live. Its a world where public manipulation is easy, far easier than say professional, moral and ethical codes. Far easier than having those politicians produce better policy to combat their opposition or have a staff member verify a fact at source or as close to source as possible. Its a world where the powerful and influential live and a world where if you have the money and the connections, you rarely have to say sorry for the harm you may cause others.

Link (*)

27 comments on “Sorry seems to be the hardest word

  1. […] Sorry seems to be the hardest word […]

  2. My view of press apologies is very simple – they should be obliged to print the apology on the same page the original article appeared on and with the same level of prominence as the original article.

    Won’t hold my breath though.

    It’s like Leveson never happened. The newspapers have just stuck the fingers in their collective ears and kept on singing “La, la, la…”.

    They declare themselves the guardians of democracy and that freedom of the press must be defended at all costs.

    But in reality they are an impediment to democracy and have transformed the notion of freedom of the press into the freedom to tells lies which should never be tolerated, let alone defended. And yet it is.

    Hell and hand carts spring to mind.

  3. This also worth quoting from the article you link to:

    “Carmichael has resisted calls to quit as an MP and is facing a court case brought by some of his constituents in Orkney and Shetland under the Representation of the People Act, 1983.

    The People Vs Carmichael set up a crowdfunding appeal to fund their legal action with an initial target of £60,000.

    The group has raised £61,100 in 24 days with seven days to go until its deadline.

    Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, is also investigating whether Carmichael – the Liberal Democrats’ sole MP in Scotland – breached the Commons Code of Conduct.”

  4. Smout says:

    Like you, I don’t remember when the press became the beast that it is today.

    Way back, it seems, in the mists of time I used to enjoy reading papers that argued a viewpoint completely different to my own. While I fundamentally disagreed with their point of view the arguments did not hold the same vitriol that we see today. Back then I would happily pick up a Telegraph and enjoy having to challenge my own beliefs. Well that, and they were the only paper that had a half decent reporting of science. Now the visceral hatred for all that oppose their view on life is sickening.

    It is not, obviously, only the Telegraph. In my opinion, the saddest demise has been the Herald. Always my paper of choice even when living in deepest South Britain with its decent world news coverage and its columnists of all or no political opinion. My loins cannot be girded enough these days to even glance at the crossword.

    I don’t care if a paper has a different editorial stance to my viewpoint, all I ask is they conduct themselves with both self respect and respect for the opposition.

    • diabloandco says:

      Agree Smout. When I came down from Aberdeen some 50 years ago one” took “the Herald and its content was balanced ,challenging and inspiring.
      When SMG took it over it started the trek towards a Labour supporting paper ,aided and abetted by those it chose to employ.
      When Gannet took over it trundled on towards becoming a red top with slightly better spelling and grammar – now it can’t even make that boast.
      It has become a joke with a Frankie Howard “ooh missus “take on any tale agin’ the SNP , the people of Scotland and the Yessers.
      At no time in the past would it have headlined the grievance of some writer of children’s books against a political party. Nor would it have given credence to the utterances of said writer without enquiring about their political allegiance and making clear to the reader that those who back a party with one million quid or a campaign with a further million quid , just might be grinding an axe of their own.
      It has become a shameful parody of its once great self.
      It will join the other ” quality ” paper of the east coast ,the ill – named Scotsman in its plummeting sales.

      • Smout says:

        diabloandco you have articulated my anger at the Herald better than I did. I do however disagree that the Scotsman was ever a ‘quality’ paper. I am open to correction but I always remember the Scotsman as an establishment mouthpiece. It never gave the opportunity for dissenting voices that the Herald did. It only changed from a tory propaganda sheet to a labour one after devolution.

        • gavin says:

          I got the Scotsman from the late 60’s for about 20 years. It was a terrific paper in the early years, edited by Alistair Dunnet, Scotland’s finest Editor by a mile. It was a Liberal supporting paper, pro Home Rule and with the best letters page of any UK paper at that time. It was also, at that time, a “paper of record” meaning its articles were fact based and accurate.
          It declined year on year, assets stripped by owner after owner, starting with the Canadian Thompson, who used its revenue to prop up the London Times.
          Its decline continues and it should no longer be regarded as a newspaper at all, but as a vehicle for propaganda and spin, of a political nature..

    • daibhidhdeux says:

      Indeed, sir or miss or madam:
      Thoroughly agree.


  5. Clootie says:


    You did well to control the obvious rage as you put your thoughts in writing – reading between the lines😀.
    It would have been easy to go for rage! You remained calm and factual.

    This is how we will win the long game by uncovering/highlighting the deceit and bias of our media and spreading the word via the internet.

  6. David McDowell says:

    The Scottish public saw the whole sorry shower of media sock puppets exposed in the referendum.

    But the attempt to run Project Fear 2 during the general election backfired spectacularly.

    The British Labour Party, in particular, arrogantly believed the same old BBC propaganda bombardment would work yet again.

    But people had seen through it once, and now they can never go back to believing the media’s self-serving lie that they are the “guardians of democracy”.

    • Ealasaid says:

      But eventually, as you point out, it will be the public seeing through the propaganda and spreading the word that will sort them out. That is why their sales are dropping and will probably drop faster as time goes on as more people are enlightened. The few that agree with them may remain but will that be enough to keep the paper afloat?

      The more they do it the less readers they will have. Eventually it will hit them where it really hurts, in their profits. But by that time it will probably be too late for them to win any readers back.

      Thanks for another great article Macart.

  7. daibhidhdeux says:

    I wonder if the printed press and, by extension, the broadcast variation really ever were neutral and objective in their reporting of the “news” (“liberal”, “progressive” pretensions apart and allowing for partisan editorial commentary as well as “right on” professors of Media Studies and their counterparts in the various schools of journalism}?

    I wonder what the cumulative historical evidence shows?

    A case study of the Herald, as the oldest daily in the world, going back to its inception, I suspect, would indicate that media objectivity, for the most part, was never more than a Platonic myth of the Ideal and Perfect. And that, to the contrary, the media has always had a red in tooth and claw vested agenda, much like the pseudo-scientists cried establishment historians have – nota bene, the Unionist propagandist, Starkey as fairground barker pretending, or increasingly not, to be a “disinterested” observer and analyst in the vein of the British Nazi apologist, posing as an historian, found guilty in German courts of much more than Holocaust denial but the active subversion of the truth of the industrial scale of the mass murders of the innocents in pursuit of an imagined eugenic, blood and soil, white, flaxen haired perfection speaking “High German”.

    Perhaps our collective struggle for re-independence has simply re-kindled and – in stripping our eyes naked as bairns again brought into this world – brought home to us once more the imperfect and vile reality of the British state and the various arms of its apparatus (eg, Kenya and Ireland et al) in addition to us being made intellectually critically aware again of the sundry ad hoc cheer-leading apologists for it that we are up against?

    Perhaps our collective struggle – which I believe is imminently and irrevocably coming to fruition on the side of our joint re-liberation of Scotland and of all Scots in Alba and without any qualification pertaining to anything – is fundamentally worth it not only in terms of the core and non-negotiable people as sovereign objective, but re-enlightening us as to the world we inhabit and are seeking to change for the moral and intellectual and inclusive better for all of humanity regardless and despite the “whoors” who inhabit the media, the law, academia, and the middle and upper echelons of the current establishment order.

    Well worth the candle in terms of the truth and our consciences squared with our intellects as John MacLean put it echoing Fletcher of Saltoun and subsequently re-posited by Matthew Lygate.

    Not only well worth it, indeed, but also vital if we are to grow as human beings and the generations of our wee ones after us in the rich, inclusive tapestry they will be free to make.

    • Smout says:

      daibhidhdeux, I don’t think the press have ever been neutral. And, apart from ‘our’ state broadcaster, don’t think that they need to be. What I do think is that they should be honest about where their allegiances lie.

      Reporting of news should be just that, a report with no opinion. What spin they put on that news is entirely up to their editorial stance and can be reflected elsewhere in their journals. I have no problem with that. Unfortunately what seems to be happening now is opinion masquerading as news.

      Unfortunately I do not currently live in Scotland, but although only anecdotal, and, contrary to what is portrayed in the media, I have experienced a change for the better in the perception of me as a Scot lately. More and more folk are seeing us as different, in a good way. I have done little for our collective struggle but all that has been done at home has been noticed

  8. vronsky says:

    “Have we simply in more recent times had the scales lifted from our eyes?”

    Yes, that’s all. There’s nothing new under the sun. Or even under The Sun.

  9. broadbield says:

    I believe the UK press may have been worse in the 18th/19th centuries – just ask Napoleon, but we thought we lived in more civilised times. Not so, as the demonisation of Alec Salmond in particular and the SNP more generally has shown recently. But the press feel they can take pot shots at anyone, politicians, celebrities and ordinary citizens – no-one if safe if they think they can make a story out of it, often unimpeded by the facts. I become more in favour of stricter controls every day.

  10. arthur thomson says:

    I believe the media have always been what they are now – largely corrupt. As a child I read the Record and the Sunday Post. It was through the eyes of a child that I could see clearly their infamy against their own people. These newspapers have to go down the same chute as the red and blue tories they supported. My hope is that the GE result was an indication that more and more people are seeing them for what they are.

  11. David Agnew says:

    The press has always been this bad. The difference now is that we are the focus of their stupidity. Before it’d be Europe that was the devoured Bete noire. Now its Scotland, its people, its politics, the culture and its history etc etc. That also includes No voters, if they did but know it.

  12. hektorsmum says:

    I have to say Macart as someone who has been following poltics for most of my life that in my early teens my Dad used to take the Daily Mail, he followed the horses actually, I never remember him reading the front pages. Well I did, I noticed that as long as the Tories were in power everything was hunky dory, then of course Labour got in and boy did the editorial viewpoint change. I think from then on I viewed what was said with a certain amount of suspicion. Then of course they took the production of the Daily Express out of Scotland while still calling it Scottish. So that was another reason, So in answer to your question have they always been the same, I would have to say, in my eyes, yes.

  13. The problem is; many buy papers unthinkingly, out of habit. My uncle is a case in point. A marine engineer who, when Hasties and Scotts engineering works closed, in Greenock, moved to England for work (Sulzers, Leeds). After nearly two decades ‘away,’ he retired back home. He never voted in England but was delighted to vote YES on 18 09 14. He joined the SNP after the Indy Ref and voted SNP on 07 05 15. Despite his strong political persuasion, he insists on buying the Mail every day, to my eternal annoyance. Why? He just likes it. He says ‘Ach, it’s important to know what the enemy is up to’. Hmmm.

    On the other hand, my 18 year old off-spring, also a YES voter and new SNP member, has never bought a UK paper and never will. That whole generation is the same; i-phones never out of hands.

    So printed media is in its twilight years. Its extinction, in the long term, is guaranteed. Who knows just how long before their dwindling sales become terminally unprofitable. I guess one or two decades at most. That’s a little comfort, but for the next 10 -20 years, not a lot!

    In the short term, (10 -20 yrs at most) we are stuck with the bastardoes. My contempt for UK printed media is only matched by my contempt for UK tv media. But what can we do to speed up that extinction?

    Perhaps the devolved Scottish government could have a look at making the most of what devolved powers have slipped through the net by Westminster unnoticed, as that is, after all, the only way they ‘give’ away their powers.

    One area which might be worth looking at is the Scottish legal system which has always been devolved even since 1707, (leaving the encroachments of civil appeals to the House of Lords & the more recent ‘Supreme Court’ to one side).

    The Data Protection Scotland Act is devolved to Scotland. Newspapers are covered by this Act under Scottish law. Scotland also has its own Freedom of Information Commissioner. However these acts may or may not be applicable but surely the Scottish Govt, knowing the open war which the UK press barons have declared on the wishes of the people of Scotland and their democratically elected goverment and representatives, should be ‘thinking outside the box’ and scouring Scots legislation for any foothold it can exercise, to mitigate the press-barons anti-Scots propaganda? e.g. (and this is just off the top of my head), could not legislation be passed by Holyrood that any public paper sold in Scotland had to show on the front header, the press barons names, their political aspirations, (“This paper is owned privately by such and such. He/she donated XX millions to the UK Conservative/Labour/Liberal/SNP/Communist party in Tax Year 15-16. All articles printed herein are the views of the said owner only and his hired mouthpieces.”)

    It would really be a government health warning to the public, in much the same way as cigarette packets have to warn the public of the dangers within, or film credits have to say at the end that any similarity to real people/events is entirely accidental etc.

    At least that way the unthinking paper buying public could see exactly WHO they were supporting with their pennies and just WHAT they should expect. i.e. this is not a factual account, it is the private view of the owner only.

  14. macart763 says:

    The truth is I asked a question of you folks I already had an answer to.

    The media isn’t just a tool of the establishment, they are fully paid up members. For as long as print has existed, it has been used as a method of directing opinion by the rich and the powerful. What we tend to remember (through rose tinted goggles) are noted individual journalists or editors who stood out primarily because of their personal courage, their ability to thumb their nose at the establishment.

    The media machine itself however has pretty much always been part of the orthodoxy. Those who control the flow of information, controls the people. For proof do we really need to look any further than the ideological and party affiliations of the daily titles? Each of us could probably look at any banner on the news stands and name the party of choice.

    At which point we must ask ourselves who do you trust? How can you trust a title or a broadcast channel when fully aware of its political ideology? We read the titles which best reflect our political and moral compass, but we need to ask ourselves a further question. Who set that compass?

    When we see the evidence of duplicity, naked theft, criminality, self serving careerism, ineptitude, arrogance and ignorance on display by our established parties and their system of politics. When we witness the fruits of their labours in the growth of wealth disparity, austerity, hunger on our own streets, societal division, just what makes these parties trustworthy? In the face of this evidence, who acts quite deliberately as their publicists and sells us a false bill of goods day in, day out every single day of the year and directs our opinions like a puppeteer yanking our strings? Telling us what to believe, who to believe, who to love and who to hate.

    That’s right, our media.

    Selling fresh air in a can to the public for as long as you can imagine.

  15. Jan Cowan says:

    The only newspaper – apart from the National – that I’ve actually looked forward to reading was the Orcadian. No political bent, just the news as it comes.

  16. There is another paper which, like the National and Sunday Herald, supports Scots independence, the “Scots Independent”. Printed monthly, in Alloa, with a circulation of 6,000. I recommend it to anyone who has never read it. It has articles in Gaelic and Scots and should not be missed by anyone with a ‘seditious’ bent..

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