Truth is a torch against the dark­ness of pro­pa­ganda

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

WE are now em­barked upon a po­lit­i­cal jour­ney which, re­gard­less of in­tran­si­gence on the part of the Con­ser­va­tive Party, will in­evitably re­sult in a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum – a jour­ney which this news­pa­per sin­cerely hopes ends with Scot­land as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion. How­ever, the way that each of us take the steps along this jour­ney is al­most as im­por­tant as the jour­ney it­self. We must not be ar­ro­gant, we must not be hec­tor­ing, we must not see oth­ers as enemies and traitors – the path to con­sti­tu­tional change should be walked with con­fi­dence, equa­nim­ity and re­spect for those who dif­fer with us. De­cency should be the hall­mark of this na­tional de­bate – whether that de­bate is in per­son, in print or on­line.

While the Sun­day Her­ald takes a well-known po­si­tion in sup­port of in­de­pen­dence, our read­ers also know that we wel­come open and in­tel­li­gent de­bate, and want those of all po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions to feel that they have a home within these pages to share their views, and to have their opin­ions lis­tened to in a re­spect­ful man­ner. Just be­cause a pa­per holds a par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal point of view, that does not ren­der it – or rather should not ren­der it – in­ca­pable of be­ing fair and bal­anced when re­port­ing on those who hold dif­fer­ing po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions. The Sun­day Her­ald has made it clear that par­ties and peo­ple from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum will be treated fairly and equally; they will be praised where praise is due, and held to ac­count when deemed to be not work­ing in Scot­land’s in­ter­ests. Dur­ing re­cent elec­tions and the EU ref­er­en­dum we opened our pages every week to all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, al­low­ing them an unedited say on the big­gest is­sues of the day. This was a state­ment that hon­est, fair and bal­anced re­port­ing is what we are about. We live in an era of pro­pa­ganda – and the Sun­day Her­ald places dis­torted re­port­ing and im­bal­ance in jour­nal­ism in the same box as racism, ho­mo­pho­bia and sex­ism. We re­gard pro­pa­ganda as anath­ema to the very prin­ci­ples of jour­nal­ism. Of course, all news­pa­pers should take a po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion – but that po­si­tion should only be re­flected in leader col­umns, such as this, and by our com­men­ta­tors, if they so wish. Po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion should never bleed into re­port­ing. As the old news­pa­per adage goes: com­ment is free, facts are sa­cred.

How­ever, the press of­ten does jour­nal­ism no favours. There are many oc­ca­sions when the me­dia – and in par­tic­u­lar the Lon­don me­dia – seems ut­terly un­trust­wor­thy when it comes to giv­ing read­ers and view­ers a bal­anced un­der­stand­ing of Scot­tish af­fairs. The jour­nal­ism is loaded, facts are twisted, down­right lies are told. Be­ware also of fringe voices be­ing el­e­vated into the main­stream. We don’t just speak of the Katie Hop­kins of this world, there are many in­im­i­cal voices on all sides of the de­bates – left, right, Yes, No, Leave, Re­main – who bring with them only a de­sire to dis­rupt, hurt and abuse. Al­low them to re­main in the outer reaches of the bl­o­go­sphere where they belong. Who brings some­one into their home in­tent on sow­ing dis­cord?

Per­haps the best sym­bol for the sick­ness grip­ping the me­dia is the hir­ing of for­mer Con­ser­va­tive chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne as the edi­tor of the Evening Stan­dard. How can that pa­per be taken as a se­ri­ous watch­dog of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment if its mas­ter is a Tory grandee? Po­lit­i­cal de­bate should no longer be a blood sport. Rather than two men punch­ing each other sense­less in a metaphor­i­cal box­ing ring, per­haps we should start to think of po­lit­i­cal dis­course as a fam­ily sit­ting around a din­ner ta­ble. We’ve all been there – with our friends and loved ones – find­ing each other on dif­fer­ent sides of the de­bate. In a lov­ing fam­ily, dif­fer­ences are worked out, ad­dressed with re­spect, and not al­lowed to breed hate. How­ever, the vast ma­jor­ity of the Lon­don press are a ghost at the feast – in­tent on in­cit­ing fear and ha­tred where none should ex­ist.

HOLD­ING a union­ist po­si­tion is as wor­thy of re­spect as hold­ing a pro-in­de­pen­dence po­si­tion. No ar­gu­ments will be won by those who seek to put oth­ers down for fail­ing to share their view of the world. Hav­ing a dif­fer­ing po­lit­i­cal view does not make an­other per­son stupid or wrong or dan­ger­ous. In fact, we need those of dif­fer­ing opin­ion so we can test the met­tle of our own be­liefs, find their weak­nesses and im­prove our po­si­tion. As such, the Sun­day Her­ald is com­mit­ted to hon­est, fair, au­then­tic re­port­ing. While we wish to see an in­de­pen­dent Scot­land, this pa­per will hold the case for in­de­pen­dence to ac­count every step of the way, for we can­not al­low it to be weak and to fail this time. Equally, our pages are open to those who oppose in­de­pen­dence – their views are im­por­tant, they must be heard with re­spect and fair­ness, but also, when they are wrong-headed, we will make the fail­ings in the union­ist case clear to our read­ers. We be­lieve that bal­ance is what our read­ers truly care about.

So, there­fore, this leader col­umn is a plea for com­mon sense and de­cency. Every hu­man be­ing has the right to an opin­ion and they should not be hated for hold­ing that opin­ion. Po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ence should be cel­e­brated in a democ­racy. Like­wise, jour­nal­ism must be a torch of hon­esty to guide peo­ple through the dark­ness of lies, de­ceit and pro­pa­ganda. A news­pa­per should re­flect the views of all those who live within the so­ci­ety it rep­re­sents, and cham­pion the best val­ues of that so­ci­ety. Those val­ues – fair­ness, hon­esty, bal­ance, de­cency, and re­spect – are what the Sun­day Her­ald stands for, be­cause they are the val­ues that our read­ers stand for.

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