Truth is a torch against the darkness of propaganda
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.