1. Holyrood's Louise Wilson condemns intimidation of journalists
Louise Wilson, a journalist on Holyrood
– Scotland's online fortnightly political and current affairs magazine – has been telling its readers of her concerns about the increasing levels of abuse and intimidation which UK journalists are facing on a daily basis, whether while out and about on reporting assignments or via social media.
This issue attracted widespread media coverage in reports on how the BBC's Scotland editor, James Cook, was subjected to a tirade of abuse from members of a crowd while reporting on the recent Conservative leadership hustings held in Perth.
Yorkshire-born Louise, 30, who joined the Holyrood
staff two years ago, attended the same event and on arriving she was immediately greeted by calls of 'scum' by three middle-aged men standing behind the metal barriers.
'It wasn't unexpected,' she relates. 'On the train journey to get to the Fair City, I'd been following the sizeable protest, watching reports of Tory members being egged and shouted at. Any journalist who has attended Tory events in the past knows to prepare for it.'
Louise explains: 'What I wasn't expecting was that when I told the men I was a journalist there to work, the response was simply: Doesn't matter. Scum.
I hurried on inside, partly because I didn't want to engage further and partly because a delayed train meant I only had about 20 minutes before the main event started. Then the video of the BBC's James Cook surfaced. Cook carried himself professionally and admirably in the face of being told he was scum
, a traitor
and questioned on how long he'd lived in Scotland (as though someone like me, who moved to Scotland as an adult, has any less of a right to opinions about the Scottish constitution than someone born here).
'This appalling treatment of the media has been rising in the last decade. Let's be clear that it is a small minority of people doing it, but they are loud and relentless. Most journalists could tell you of a time they've been insulted for simply doing their job; for asking questions of those in power; and for pointing out lies and obfuscation.'
Explaining that she was a BBC journalist for three years before joining Holyrood
, Louise points out: 'Whenever I was asked who I worked for, I would always pause before answering. Try to assess whether the person I was speaking to would react poorly when I told them. Watch out for signs that revealing that information would lead to being berated for things well beyond my control. It's not just limited to Scotland, of course. Shouts of fake news are heard the world over, as people who would rather you didn't report the truth take umbrage with the fact you are. Exacerbated by social media, being a journalist in this era can be a scary job'.
At the same time, Louise underlines that it has also made amateur journalists more prominent, explaining: 'Videos and tweets without context are shared around the world in minutes, seen and believed by plenty. They claim to be telling the real truth and accuse the MSM (that's mainstream media, to the uninitiated) of lying. Any genuine mistake made by professional journalists quickly becomes something to point to as apparent proof. On and on the cycle goes, with very few people in power stepping in to stop it because quite frankly the narrative suits them. It creates an environment in which they can better control the story around them. It's why Donald Trump was such a prolific tweeter.
'Nicola Sturgeon – and various other senior SNP politicians – should be applauded for condemning the abuse faced by Cook. Political leaders should be standing with journalists to face down such actions.'
Louise reports that inside Perth Concert Hall the two candidates to be Prime Minister were quick to blame the nationalists for creating the divisive environment. Minutes later, she says, the audience was booing STV's Colin Mackay for asking whether Brexit and Covid-19 had changed the political landscape enough to warrant a second independence referendum.
'Neither Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss told them to stop – and that has become a common occurrence in this race. They should reflect on that,' declares Louise.
Reach plc, one of the UK's largest newspaper publishers, last year hired an industry-first online safety editor to tackle the 'endemic' problem of abuse towards its journalists.
2. Brown loses IPSO complaint against The Spectator
Former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has lost a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) against The Spectator
magazine over an article about his so-called 'Russian riches'.
IPSO is the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK. Media industry website, Press Gazette
, reports: 'Brown also complained about the handling of the issue to IPSO's independent complaints reviewer but was told the process was not flawed, with his request for a review turned down'.
According to the Press Gazette report, the article in question, written in The Spectator's
gossip column, Steerpike
, in February, was originally headlined: 'Gordon Brown's Russian riches'.
Press Gazette explains: 'Brown complained the article, and subsequent edits of it, contained several inaccuracies and misleading and distorted information
as it wrongly gave the impression he had personally profited from giving a speech to a Russian bank. But The Spectator
argued it was deeply chilling
that Brown would try to force the removal of an article that was in the public interest, when the fact of the speech and its fee were not in dispute.
'The first version of the article, which has since be updated, said the former Labour leader was paid over £100,000 by a newly sanctioned Russian bank
and that he received £124,494 for a four-hour speech given to major Russian financial institution Sberbank and corporate giant Troika Diolog in 2012.
'The article said the pay equated to £500 per minute or £8 a second. Kerching!
but acknowledged he did not receive any money personally from the engagement. The fee instead went to his office to support the employment of his staff. It also said he unsurprisingly
did not respond to a request for comment.'
Press Gazette goes on to report that a day after publication, the headline was changed to 'Gordon Brown's office took Russian bank's money' and some of the wording of the article was edited, including by taking out the words 'Kerching' and 'unsurprisingly'.
'It also deleted this sentence: First Peter Mandelson's strategy firm and now Gordon Brown's Russian roubles. How many more Moscow skeletons will come out of the Labour closet?
and added more details about purpose and funding of The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown.'
Press Gazette adds: 'A further day later the following sentence was removed: An interesting question arises though as to which donations to politicians are legitimate and for what reason
. A footnote to the article was also added to state: We are happy to make it clear that Gordon Brown never personally benefited from the engagements or speeches referred to in this piece
3. Alex and Colin depart GB News television channel
Two presenters at the fledgling GB News television channel – Alex Phillips and Colin Brazier – who both joined the channel at its launch in June 2021, have left as part of a shake-up of its daytime scheduling.
Patrick Christys will move from co-hosting the To The Point
10am-12pm weekdays spot to host his own GB News Live programme in the late afternoon. One of the channel's commentators, Calvin Robinson, will present a new show, Calvin's Common-Sense Crusade
, on Sundays, while married couple, Esther McVey and Philip Davies, will co-present a new Friday programme in addition to their Saturday 10am-12pm slot.
GB News has also hired The Daily Telegraph's
assistant comment editor, Olivia Utley, to join its politics team in October. She already appears as a commentator on the channel.
Editorial director, Mick Booker, points out: 'Our strength as a small start-up is our ability to innovate and move quickly to stay ahead, keep growing and keep listening to our audience. Our new programming also leverages our growing investment in newsgathering across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland'.
While well aware of the innate right-wing political bias of GB News, which was one of the main reasons behind its launch, I must admit I am becoming quite fond of the channel, especially its newspaper review programme, Headliners
, which is presented by a team of professional comedians at 11pm every night of the week.
4. Broadcast training for Scottish women journalists
The Women in Journalism Scotland (WiJ Scotland) group is partnering with the BBC Scotland politics team to offer broadcast media training to up to 20 women to help improve gender balance in politics and news coverage.
WiJ Scotland explains: 'It's important that political journalism includes a diverse range of voices and perspectives. We're holding a session to encourage the next crop of female commentators and experts to step up. We're looking for informed voices on subjects related to politics, or specialist journalists who want to make the transition to radio and TV commentary. Participants will undertake vocal training, a mock panel interview, a mock radio interview and hear from senior producers on what they're looking for when they book guests for political shows'.
The workshop will take place at BBC Scotland's headquarters in Glasgow on Friday 30 September.
WiJ Scotland was launched in November 2016 with the aim of networking, training and campaigning for women working across print, broadcast and online journalism and communications.
5. Strike action by Reach plc's NUJ journalists seems set to continue
Publisher Reach plc is reportedly offering to pay its journalists £400 to help deal with the cost-of-living crisis – but the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has demanded more action on wages to resolve an ongoing industrial dispute. HoldTheFrontPage
reports that Reach, one of the UK's largest newspaper groups, said it will make two one-off payments to those staff earning under £50,000.
Meantime, as I write this article on 5 September, NUJ members at Reach were reported to having already begun a work-to-rule action which will run until Tuesday 13 September. There had already been strike action on 31 August at Reach centres across the UK, including Glasgow where newspaper titles such as the Daily Record
, Sunday Mail
and Scottish Daily Express
are produced, and a further three-day strike is scheduled from 13-15 September.
HoldTheFrontPage quoted a Reach spokesperson as earlier saying: 'Over the weekend [27/28 August] we have been in discussions with the NUJ in hope of avoiding industrial action, but unfortunately these talks have ended without agreement. We were able to meet the majority of requirements put forward by the NUJ and proposed an accelerated career development framework that would have set out clearer salary progression for journalists, so we are disappointed that our offer was rejected. We remain open to talks at any time to resolve this dispute and to begin to deliver these substantial improvements for our journalists'.
According to HoldTheFrontPage, Reach had previously indicated it would not be improving on its salary increase offer of 3% or £750, whichever is more. It quotes NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, as saying: 'Despite a settlement being in touching distance following exhaustive talks at ACAS, with significant collective effort on the part of negotiators for both sides, the company's no-show chief executive kiboshed any chance of a sensible deal that addresses our members' key priority – their consolidated pay. NUJ members are clear where responsibility lies here, and that is shown in a unanimous vote of no confidence in Reach chief executive Jim Mullen'.
Chris Morley, the NUJ national coordinator at Reach, is later quoted as saying: 'Our members are bemused that senior managers have acted in such an ill-judged and blundering way. It gives the lie to the company's ability to improve its pay offer but also manages to disrespect our members and the union they wish to have their pay and conditions negotiated through. The best that can be said is that this could be the opening needed to start a more productive dialogue which can navigate a successful way out of this dispute for the company. As such, we would urge the company to now come forward with a sensible pay package for journalists that could form the basis for settlement'.
A Reach spokesperson is later quoted as saying: 'We greatly value our journalists and are disappointed that, despite our best efforts during a long negotiation process and successful agreements with Unite and the British Association of Journalists (BAJ), we have been unable to reach an agreement with the NUJ. Whilst this is not the outcome we would have wished for, 2022 continues to be extremely challenging for the whole publishing sector with reduced demand for advertising and energy inflation driving the cost of newsprint to record levels. We therefore remain focused on protecting the interests of all our colleagues and stakeholders, ensuring the group has a sustainable future in the face of an uncertain economic climate'.
Should you wish to get in touch with me, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK's exceedingly diverse media market