This time it’s Angela Haggerty, and this time the paper didn’t stop with embarrassing her.
In fact, they sacked her.
To call this a crisis for the profession is an understatement. Its entire reason for being is hanging by a thread. No-one working within its ranks is safe today if they collectively allow this to happen, without comment, without criticism, standing idly by as they currently do.
One organisation – and it’s a skint West of Scotland football club; we’re not talking about a multi-billion pound transnational corporate behemoth with unlimited funds and a legal department that would make Coca Cola’s CEO piss his pants – has decided it will not tolerate any negative press, at all, and it is now set on threatening any media outlet which doesn’t play ball.
And most of Scotland’s press has fallen shamefully silent.
I have never had less respect for them than I do today. I have never felt this much contempt for those who work within its ranks.
They are cowards almost to a man.
The rare exceptions are hung out to dry and made twist in the wind for the amusement of a mob.
There’s no excuse for it.
If their business is really all about money – and commercial considerations appear to be high on the list of factors in what The Herald has done – then they’re essentially putting a price tag on their integrity.
And in this case, that appears to be around £40,000.
So an entire generation of real journalists, of writers of conviction, decades of breaking big stories and a proud history of bringing truth to power, it’s all been flogged off and betrayed, for less than the half the price of a one bedroom flat in the drug addict part of town.
What price a free press in Scotland, eah?
In England, Peter Oborne resigned last year from The Telegraph, after he said their entire coverage of the banking industry and the politics surrounding it had been slanted by the advertising fees paid by organisations like HSBC, who were under investigation for multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and other offences … none of which his paper wanted to write about.
This is where we are now in Scotland, it seems, only a smaller scale.
A much smaller one.
An embarrassingly small one.
There’s no such thing as a free press; now you, too, can buy it for the price of a family car.
For some at these papers, the stench must be overwhelming.
Oborne wasn’t a man working alone, as Graham Spiers isn’t. Yet Angela was the first mainstream journalist working in the media here in Scotland to stand up for him, and based on what’s just happened to her certain people will be calculating that she’s going to be the last.
She better not be.
Everyone who can hold a pen should be behind her.
You know, when the Charlie Hebdo attacks murdered so many of that publication’s journalists in Paris, it brought forth a wave of support for journalist freedom that filled me with enormous pride.
I now realise how phony that all was, because it’s easy to express support for the dead when you’re not personally in the gun-sights. It’s easy to take a stand, or to look like you’re taking a stand, when you’re not being put under pressure. What we saw wasn’t courage; it was calculation. An entire industry lathered itself up in self congratulation for its “courage”, and all the while it buried child abuse allegations, government scandals, allowed criminals to escape justice and corrupt corporations to escape scrutiny … out of fear.
Fear of less than a bullet.
Fear of losing a few quid.
Here in Scotland journalists fold the hand because they get some abuse on Twitter. Editors refuse to let plainly true stories run because the Blue KKK might organise a dozen or so unemployed yobs to protest outside on a Monday morning. And God knows how much gets buried because advertisers issue veiled threats about pulling their copy.
Can you imagine these people ever doing anything so serious as to warrant the attention of real fanatics, and not just the Saturday afternoon variety?
No, me neither.
A collection of cowards, that’s what we have instead of a press.
The only people with guts in all this are the Bampots, of whom Angela is a shining example.
She’ll continue to write the truth, no matter what it costs her, because she gets it. She understands. She takes the job seriously and she knows that, in the end, she herself is a cog in a big wheel and her voice is important, and maintaining it through this kind of shit is what will keep the nature of what she does going long after those who sold it out are dead and gone.
Those of us in the blogosphere don’t do it for huge rewards.
I work for limited advertising and donations, and entirely without regrets.
The bills get paid (most of the time) but I’m not driving a sports car.
I have a media degree and could have pursued a career in the press, but I never wanted it.
On a day like today I’m glad of that.
Because I couldn’t do as Graham Spiers may have to.
I couldn’t go into the offices of an organisation that just shafted me.
I couldn’t call myself a journalist and have my livelihood dependent on the whims of the advertising department.
And that’s not a criticism of Graham. I’ve read his work, and I know he has balls. I also understand where he is right now. The guy probably has a mortgage to pay and a wife and kids to support; he’s not in a position where he can spit the dummy out of the pram and walk away.
Which is exactly the point.
No newspaper worthy of the name should ever put one of its writers in such a diabolical, heart-wrenching position.
It makes me sick. It makes me physically sick.
Graham knows now what his lifetime of work has been worth, and what it means to the bean counters. That has to hurt like a bastard and to say I feel enormous sympathy with him, and with Angela, and with every other writer out there who’s facing similar pressure … well words don’t do justice to how absolutely scunnered I am for them all.
Here on the blogosphere, we operate entirely without those concerns.
But we also work entirely without a safety net.
The media is fond of telling their readers that there are no restrictions on what we are allowed to write – as if the libel laws and contempt of court laws don’t exist on the internet. In truth, our every article is a walk along the tightrope. Our every utterance has to be weighed against the possible consequences, and I’m not just talking about legal ones.
We know what’s out there.
We know those people exist.
Some of us deal with their abuse on a day to day basis.
But we’re big boys and girls, and we can take it.
We have to, because on days like today it looks as if no-one else will.
But I could be wrong.
Maybe every journalist in Scotland is furious about this. Maybe they’re organising industrial action in support of their colleagues even now. Maybe they get that to walk away from Graham and Angela is to paint a target on their backs. Maybe they get what an enormous moment this is. Maybe.
And then again, maybe some of them just don’t care.
Hell, the money is good, it’s steady, and you get to see your name in print.
What’s not to like?
Like career politicians, with not one iota of political conviction, maybe that’s what really matters to them.
And if that’s the case, hey, fair play to they.
But they ought to stop pretending to be journalists.
This is the third article in a row I’ve written on this site, on this subject, and that is depressing and infuriating in equal measure.
Yet it’s important to keep on doing it.
It’s important to keep on speaking the truth, even when it does come at a cost.
Even when it does have consequences.
Because the cost and the consequences of silence are even greater still.
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