Independent vs Mainstream a Modern Day David and Goliath28th August 2018 1 By Alex Tiffin - @RespectIsVital
Journalism is about holding people to account whether it’s awkward or not, so why does this government get a free pass from the mainstream press?
Suicide is always a topic you must be careful when writing about. You have to be responsible so as not to cause fear or alarm to people who are suffering from a mental health condition or are in crisis. However, that shouldn’t mean that you don’t report it at all.
While some of the bigger news outlets do report suicides that are linked to treatment by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they only do so if the headline can offer them good clickbait to get readers to their site.
“Post-It Notes Reveal Anguish Of Disabled Man Who Killed Himself After £20 Benefit Cut” – Huffington Post
“Desperate disabled gran attempted suicide after brutal DWP cuts left her fearing she would lose her home” – Daily Mirror
I’m in no way saying that these stories aren’t important but, there are thousands of other cases that go under the radar because they don’t have that dramatic effect. Also when covering the story the journalist is usually very very careful not to lay blame at the door of the DWP.
Some articles are made 95% of quotes from family members, others finish with a stock DWP spokesperson response. Nowhere is it stated that the alarming rise in suicides and attempted suicides could be linked to the government’s welfare reforms. Nowhere.
Mainstream vs Independent
When it comes to journalism I believe that it can and should be a force for good. Part of my belief in this is due to the content that independent sites put out. An example of some of the sites I watch are; Evolve Politics, The Canary UK and Vox Political.
There are many others and you will always find something that suits your own views. I highly recommend you search to see what is out there.
Obviously the first problem many of these sites have is size and budget. Most independent sites, including my own, are funded mostly by readers themselves. They simply cannot match a tabloids budget. What they can and have done however is harnessed the power of social media.
This in itself recently came back to bite some independent news sites with a vengeance. Just a few weeks ago Facebook experienced a “glitch”. Strangely this glitch only affectted certain pages.
As you can see, large sites like The Sun and Sky News were unaffected but smaller ones including myself were unable to post any links in posts on our Facebook pages. In my case Facebook had flagged my page as spam. They had removed it by the end of the day with no reason given other than a “glitch.”
Another issue that the journalists at big corporations have is; their editors only want content that matches their political party affiliation. So while the Daily Mail Online occasionally cover suicide stories, they always word it in such a way that either the claimant looks wrong or it’s not linked to the government.
When it comes to independents that may sometimes be the case but they are more than often happy to let their writers post most things. An example of this is an article by someone I call a friend; Steve Topple aka @MrTopple
The Canary is well known for being supportive of The Labour Party and its policies. What Mr Topple has done here though, is directly challenge a Labour Party Policy not to Scrap Universal Credit. Can you imagine the Daily Telegraph doing anything that went against the Conservative Party’s Policies? I don’t see it happening.
Independents don’t have the worry of shareholders withdrawing money or worse still “letting them go,” they just say it like it is. That’s my opinion anyway, many people may disagree.
Where’s the accountability?
Journalism is about investigating and holding people to account. Be that an individual, company or a central government it shouldn’t matter about personal beliefs. If you have facts that clearly show one thing, you don’t avoid putting them out in-case you hurt your bosses boss’ feelings.
No you put it all in. Sometimes it may hurt a cause you feel for, sometimes it may support it. What it does do is show that you have integrity.
In the UK media world, the UK government is currently getting pretty much a free pass from the big groups. There are occasions when they call them out, such as when BBC Journalist Michael Buchanan did live on the BBC News at Ten, but these are isolated events that are few and far between.
You can tell when the press are on a certain side when not one goes against a certain narrative but instead jumps on the bandwagon. The Press should show public opinion as well as their own beliefs. For example; if you believe the current stories by the UK Press, you think the entire UK thinks Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is anti semitic. As most people know this isn’t true but that’s a separate topic.
Times are changing
As I mentioned before, independent groups are harnessing the power of social media to get their stories out there. More people use Twitter to get news than buy newspapers these days. This isn’t really surprising in the digital age. What is surprising that big corporations haven’t seen their readership transfer over to their own websites.
It could be the sheer amount of ads clogging the page put people off or it could be that they’re not trusted, you can make that decision for yourselves. What it does show is that the tides are turning. People are more willing not to be led by big names but actually make decisions for themselves.
To end it all off, this was just a brief article on my opinion on the state of the UK Press. It annoys me that journalists with the power to do good stand by idly and do nothing.
On a separate note, a lot of work goes into writing an article whether it be sort or long so if you share it on social media please make sure you’ve read it. I see articles shared over 1000 times and read 64 times. Don’t judge an article by its headline but by its content.
Anyway that’s all for now, I hope you all have a good week.
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About the author
Just a guy documenting his experience on Universal Credit hoping to make a positive difference.