Mathew’s Musings: Commentary on this week’s news

Who speaks for the poor?

Of all of the words spoken, written and broadcast in our public discourse this week, a fifty minute oration stands head and shoulders above the rest.

It was a speech made by the anchor of ITN’s Channel 4 News, Jon Snow; who I certainly believe is probably the best journalist active in the UK media today.

He was in Edinburgh to give the 2017 MacTaggart Lecture at the city’s annual Television Festival.

Mr Snow’s theme was that a media elite…just like elites in politics, the law and so on, but arguably more important due to just how influential the media is today…is disconnected from large swathes of those it broadcasts and publishes to, especially the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

His address, to a hall of media professionals, is the most powerful I’ve heard in years.

Time and again he spoke truth to power…even when that truth asked serious questions of him and his profession.

Clips from it, rightly, did the rounds on social media but the speech in its entirety deserves a wide viewing/reading.

It really is worth 50 minutes of your time:

In a section of his speech, he says:

It’s not the whole answer, of course, but we need to open our organisations to the unconventional, the different, the diverse.

The dividends have the potential, for example, eventually to help ensure Grenfell’s agony does not go unaddressed.

I have no desire to find myself at another disaster in another area of social housing that we never knew existed, where people are shouting: “Why weren’t you here before?!

I do not dream of the wars and pestilence that I’ve reported.

But when it came to Grenfell Tower, I was haunted. And I still am. I woke every morning possessed by the enormity of it, and of its implications.

Has our glorious welfare state…come to this?!

Elsewhere in the speech he says:

Like my fellow journalists, I have spent many hours around Grenfell. I have come to know a number of the survivors, and I speak to them regularly by phone or e-mail.

So casually written off as nameless migrants, scroungers, illegals, and the rest. Actually, and it should be no shock to us, the tower was full of talent. Not least the wonderful and talented Khadija Saye, who died with her mother, on the verge of a major breakthrough as an artist.

Or community leaders like Eddie Dafarn, who survived the inferno, but who wrote that warning blog on October 20th, 2016.

We the media report the lack of diversity in other walks of life, but our own record is nothing like good enough.

The Sutton Trust has revealed this year that just under 80% of top editors were educated at private schools or grammar schools. Compare that with the 88% of the British public now in comprehensives.

It’s why I want to urge anyone and everyone in this room with the power to do it: give individuals who work with and for you the space to do something, anything, in the wider community we are here to communicate with.

Some of us do plenty of this already but others do very little in this regard. It is one fertile route to discovering lives and issues about which we might never learn. We have to widen both our contact with, and awareness of, those people who live outside and beyond our elite.

Though very few Lib Dems would consider ourselves part of any elite, this is also a stark reminder to us of why community politics is so important.

We must never allow ourselves to become disconnected from the communities we seek to serve, never think ourselves ‘too important’ to address the concerns of what are often (wrongly) termed ‘ordinary people,’ never be more concerned with what position we hold rather than what we can do with any position we may have to benefit the lives of others, especially the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us.

I’ve always sought to remember that I came into politics to help the least, the last and the lost.

Let us heed Jon Snow’s words. Let us reconnect, rebuild, restore.

Let us do so now.

* Mathew Hulbert is a parish Councillor in Leicestershire.

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7 Comments

  • I can only echo Mathew’s recommendation. I watched a few clips shared on social media during the week, but glad I could find the time this morning to watch his message in full.

    One of the issues that came through was the hollowing out of local journalism, and how that source of stories with proper local understanding is on the wane, with no obvious means of turning it around. Local listings used to fund local journalism, but I think only my dad looks up cinema times in the paper these days. Personally, I try to buy a copy of my thinning local paper, but I’m not convinced that the combined efforts of my dad and me will reverse the trend.

    I wouldn’t normally consider myself part of any elite either, but I’m lucky enough to have been able to take advantage of many opportunities and have a good life, and it would be very easy to turn a blind eye to the struggles of others, and all of us, not just journalists, need a reminder from time to time to make the effort to connect with those with different life experiences.

    Lots to think about, whether we are consumers or producers of news, and I only hope that at least some of those in the hall listening take heed.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Aug '17 - 1:18pm

    To ensure better representation of minorities, such as low income residents in Kensington and Chelsea, we need local government elections in England to be conducted by the Single Transferable Vote. Several trade unions use STV, but the Labour Party can be stubbornly obtuse.

  • In the old days, when I used to watch TV, I liked Jon Snow,

    However, I suspect that rather than becoming more powerful the media as we know it is in decline. Viewing figures and sales are going down, not up. If you go back to the pre-internet age radio was powerful print, radio and then TV were powerful because they were a shared experience/influence. There was thus more belief in the broad view of the medium(s?). The model now is self-selection resulting in conformation bias or say twitter-storms which can result in a bubble mentality that ignores dissonant intrusion. It’s the biggest revolution in public discourse since the invention of the printing press.

  • A lot is bias confirmation

  • John Barrett 27th Aug '17 - 9:25am

    It’s worth considering how much his words in the introduction could in fact be exchanged for the world of politics from the world of the media. It would then have been something like…..

    All of those in Westminster are by definition part of the elite……those elected should be aware of, connect with and understand the lives concerns and the needs of those who are not. In an increasingly fractured Britain, those in Parliament are comfortably increasingly part of that elite, with little connection with, awareness of or understanding of the reality of the lives of those who are not of the elite.

    How true.

    What can we do about it?

    Discuss

  • Steve Trevethan 27th Aug '17 - 12:00pm

    Thank you for an interesting article and conversation on a seriously significant subject!

    Those who manage and control the mainstream media, manage and, most-times, control the attitudes, thinking and behaviours, voting and other, of our nation. That is one reason why the DG of the BBC is paid about 3x as much as the prime minister.
    irehttps://www.google.fr/search?q=pay+of+bctor+general&rlz=1C1KMZB_enGB568FR648&oq=pay+of+bbc+director+general&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.16877j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    A policy on the BBC might help.
    To whom is the BBC accountable?
    How is this accountability visible?
    Why are employees of the BBC not considered public servants?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/23/one-ten-bbc-staff-given-pay-rise-10-per-cent-last-year/
    Why is the BBC allowed/encouraged to influence ballots and elections?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jeremy-corbyn-media-bias-labour-party-media-reform-coalition-birkbeck-a7163706.html

    P.S. It might also help if we adopted the policy of the USA whereby you have to be a citizen of the country to own a national newspaper etc.

  • Neil Sandison 27th Aug '17 - 12:59pm

    The real problem is the media now treats news reporting like a reality TV game show its all personality and little substance even politics is about the big beasts and the analysis of their contradictory comments not the facts or evidence based content of their decisions perhaps the new watch words for Liberal Democrats is about “speaking truth to power” and never mind if that truth is awkward , embarassing ,inconvinient or does not fit the narrative of the day issued by the communications department of the corporation or press office of the political party it eminates from .

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