Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Freedom Of Speech And Responsible Journalism

Bit of a struggle to get out of bed this morning but the weather was nice and sunny enough to make the trip to work worthwhile.

I had trouble keeping calm this afternoon. There is nothing worse when you are trying to concentrate than a group of technical guru's who gather behind you at your desk, then spend an hour talking and laughing loudly. It's made even worse by the fact one of them sounds like a Jack-in-the-Box being strangled when he laughs, making it one of the most annoying sounds I've ever heard in an office.

The weather took the usual pattern today; sunny but cool am - windy and wet pm, but by the time I left work it had thankfully stopped raining.

Gail made another fantastic pot of fresh carrot and coriander soup tonight. While Laura was at Brownies we popped into Morrison's for some stuff and bought some fresh, crusty baguettes to eat with the soup when we got back.

We also made a trip to the dump to bin all the brick and tiling from the downstairs toilet, which is next on the list of rooms to be furnished. I couldn't help thinking as I threw the bags into the skip, that my original desk and cabinet handles were laying in there somewhere.

I'm into the fine details of the design and layout of Festival Fantastic. I'm giving the poems a thorough going over as I move from page to page, lining everything up and ensuring there are no discrepancies whatsoever. The font has to be exact on each page, as do the page numbers, copyright and acknowledgement information and of course the author information needs to be splendid too.

I've still to write a Foreword. I thought about asking someone else to do it but I'm not sure who would be best suited so I might do it myself. I also have to order the ISBN number through the publisher and once I have that I can generate the bar code, without which, the book cannot be sold in book shops.

I discovered that any non-standard fonts used in text and/or titles are wiped by the publishing process if it is included in mere text and so I will have to go through all the page titles and replace the text headings with graphic headings. A bit of a pain because all the page numbers have to be done too, but it should make it a cleaner final production.

I read an interesting article in today's Times.

Hadrian knew the truth by a freelance "journalist" called Ross Clark.

Never have I read such a mis-informed, racist and insulting piece of journalism. For it to come from such an esteemed organ such as The Times, I am amazed this article even made it past the editors, because it brings the organ to its preverbal knees and shows it to be nothing more than a prejudiced newspaper with right-wing views. For them to hide behind the "it was a columnists opinion, not the newspaper" line is a disgrace, particularly when it is not displayed anywhere clear that this in fact is the case.

Scotland does have a problem with violence, mainly in areas of deep urban poverty where these crimes are by enlarge, committed. Several towns in Scotland have bad reputations and the statistics make poor reading, but this does in no way justify a journalist to use this as an excuse to stick the knife into a nation of people as a whole, or to use a national newspaper to air his apparent personal disillusioned prejudiced beliefs.

For the benefit of Mr. Ross Clark, I will address several comments made in his disgusting copy.

1) The translation of "Have a wee dram afore ye go," is not "I'm going to stuff this broken beer glass into your face." This in fact is Mr. Clark's bigoted interpretation and as such, his article is immediately factually inaccurate.

2) "thereby allowing the violent Scots to defile us peace-loving English and Welsh." Peace loving English and Welsh? If you want to drag up history Mr. Clark let us start with the problem of your football supporters who seem to love going abroad and causing mayhem and violence to the point a tracel ban was imminent.

3) "if you stripped out attacks committed by drunken McSporrans and McTavishes just arrived on the train at Euston." Responsible journalism does not involve using a bad experience Ross Clark may have had in a train station and using it as an excuse to defile and insult an entire nation. Using terms such as "McSporrans" and "McTavishes" not only creates an air of bad taste but it also shows the high levels of ignorance this journalist has. This can only be described as inciting hatred through prejudiced and hateful views, something I thought Westminster is trying to cut out.

4) "I wouldn't be surprised if England came out as the most murder-free country in the world." Is this a fact? Can Mr. Clark back this up with evidence? Or should I drop to his level and recount every rude Englishman I have encountered in the past in a bar in London somewhere.

5) "It is hardly as if there is anything new about the Scots propensity for murder." Again, an opinion that if it was said about the Muslim community, would result in a heavy penalty in the British Courts and probably the end of Mr. Clark's career. If Ross Clark is referring to the violent history between the English and the Scots, he would do well to pay attention to the facts rather than taknig a school-kids view of the battles where many of both our countrymen died.

6) "When even a former Scottish Labour Minister, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, ends up being jailed for setting light to the hotel where he had been drinking, there seems little hope in reforming the Scots." First, it seems highly inappropriate for any journalist to take pride and gloat about a crime committed that may have resulted in people's lives being endangered. How Mr. Clark can take any pride out of this incident is beyond me and he should be ashamed.

Secondly, for Mr. Clark to use this incident as the springboard to comment on how an entire nation can ever be reformed - and why would we even need to be reformed to the satisfaction of a bigoted journalist? - is a total and utter disgrace.

7) When talking about electronic tagging, Mr. Clark suggests, "just rebuild Hadrian's Wall" as an alternative. Please do, Mr. Clark, freelance journalist, then perhaps we won’t have to listen to your drivel any more.

I believe Ross Clark's article to be in direct contravention of the Journalists Code of Practice and the Public Order Act of 1986 for the following reasons:

Section 1 - Accuracy
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

BREACHED. Ross Clark's article is factually incorrect, misleading and contanis informatrion distorted tro reflect his own prejudiced points of view. The article does not approach the subject with any substance or journalistic decency.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, mis-leading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.

NOT FORTHCOMING. So far Ross Clark has not responded to the criticism for this article, instead he has left it to his editors, who published through the paper, a statement indicating as it was an opinion and not the newspapers there is nothign to apologise for.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

BREACHED. Ross Clark has failed in his dity to do any of this. He has blurred fact with fiction and his own personal distorted beliefs.

Section 12 - Discrimination
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

BREACHED. The main charge against Ross Clark is this one. Had this article been about Muslims, Islam, Jews or any other race or ethnic group, Mr. Clark would be in a Court of Law by now.

Section on Public Interest
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

BREACHED. This article misleads the public by MRr Clark's individual statements contained within the copy.

Public Order Act 1986

Offences under this act, "prohibit the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displaying any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting with the intention of stirring up racial hatred or where racial hatred is likely to be stirred up."

Clearly, this has law has been broken by the journalist Ross Clark in his article in The Times of Wednesday 28th September 2005. The histiry between the two nations has been at times a violent and bloody one and many people have used this as an excuse to continue ill-feeling and violcence to the present day. It's one of the reason's we don't play the Rous Cup any longer.

But in this day and age when the threat from international terrorists is as great as ever before, Ross Clark would be better refraining from stirring up hatred between two nations who need to stand together, rather than inciting violence and division.

As a result of this article, the Conservative Party, the SNP and the Catholic Church have all come out and publicly condemned The Times over this article. I will go one step further and intend to draft a formal complaint to be submitted to the Press Complaints Commission, a copy of which will also be forwarded to the Editor of The Times.

I expect a reply.
Colin 7:21 pm


What a horrid little man.

If there was one thing I learned working in the newsroom at The Sun (which, unlike the Sun in the UK, denies it's tabloid, masquerading as a socially adept correspondence) is that responsible journalism is extinct. More and more, reporters use their platform to spread hatred, not realizing that most who read the paper are not discerning enough to differentiate between the news sections and the editorial sections (though, commonly, the news articles weren't exactly factual or properly quoted either). It had a total conservative, Canada-bashing, separatist-supporting mandate. I hated it, and had to leave because some of the things I saw go on there sickened me.

But the thing that disgusted me most - the thing these "journalists" will most likely never understand, is that to pen something is to accept a social responsibility. No one gives a s#*t anymore about social responsibility, and more and more these days, articles are making it to print with hardly any truth save for the date and the author's byline. You need only to open an Ottawa newspaper to the sports section and read the anti-Toronto Maple Leafs diatribe for a prime example.

The other sad thing I found, however, by working side-by-side with these people, is that they don't care who they piss off. I took in the letters to the editor, and one reporter, who will remain nameless, would ask almost daily (except Mondays, when he was off) if there was a large outpouring of rage about his recent columns. He inquired with a tiny smile on his face, as though the anger that people felt upon reading his drivel was validation. If there were letters saying they hated him, calling him a baboon's white patch of hair, he would crack his knuckles, sit down at the computer, hunch over the keyboard and, muttering joyfully to himself, begin the fastest version of hunt-and-peck I had ever seen. I would shake my head and wonder how they could not see what they were doing.

The good news is that the folks who have a bit of a brain in their heads will take The Times' article for what it is - a sad little man at the end of his life, desperately searching for words to create spark, because he has let the spark in everything else in his life die out.

Plus, he's a big fat jerk. Hehe!

Hope your day gets better, Colin, and in my heart of hears, I wish he writes back begging forgiveness. :)


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