‘Grabbing The Headline’ without Even Trying

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

This morning two totally unrelated items on Manx Radio which did not involve actions initiated by the Celtic League suddenly found the Celtic League propelled headlong into them.

In item one the Department of Home Affairs Minister, Juan Watterson, was being questioned about various matters to do with his Department when suddenly the Celtic League became inserted into his comments in what can only be described as some unintentional ‘headline grabbing’ on our part!

In item two relating to the Guild and the now well reported protest by Peel man Stewart Bennett in which again the League had not been a main player (simply like others reporting the unexpected development) the station chose to lead into the item quoting the League (bonus another ‘headline grabbing’ moment).

However, hang on – in hindsight it all seemed a bit negative…

But surely not! The good folk at Manx Radio would not paint a negative picture without inviting us to balance it out?

After all they are ‘big’ on balance at Manx Radio!

Time for a subjective view we thought so we asked a professional psychologist to analyse the content. This is their view:

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Manx Radio Mandate
05/05/2015

Watterson

The journalist leads by saying there’s been “a bit of a stink” and by describing Celtic League involvement as an “attack”. The expression “a bit of a stink” is supposed to be a clever pun, but it’s also a negative word that frames the debate and criticisms in a negative light. The word “attack” is also important since attacks are almost always associated with irrational and anti-social behaviour. To describe criticism as an “attack” creates a sense of injustice in the mind of the listener, making it easier for them to accept what Watterson says next:

“Well, the Celtic League does revel in headline grabbing rather than facts, so I would say that they need to make sure that they have got their facts right…”

Ironically, an attention grabbing accusation that is not backed up by facts and is itself counterfactual. (Celtic League reports are backed up with references to external, reliable sources.) The journalist should pick up on this and challenge it, asking why he believes that to generally be the case, where the evidence for that claim is, etc.

“…and my understanding of the events at Peel is that professional advice was sought as to what was spilt on the road, they got that information from the Head of Environmental Health and they acted accordingly…”

What information? Who are “they”? How did the Head of EH reach their conclusions? What did “they” do? How does this impact on a breach of the law? The journalist should ask about all of these things, but fails to do so. Ultimately, it’s an empty response designed to make actions sound legitimate without actually providing any information or “facts”.

“…and those are the facts rather than the headline grabbing fascinations of the Celtic League.”

This is a somewhat arrogant and ignorant statement that again should be challenged by the journalist. Particular aims of the Celtic League are to make “our national struggles and achievements better known abroad” and to advocate “the use of the national resources of each of the Celtic countries for the benefit of all its people”. To achieve those aims various forms of media have to be utilised, just as they are being by Watterson and other Government members to put their messages across. In essence, Watterson is associating shame with attempts to be heard. He is saying that activist groups should not attempt to have their voices heard and should avoid making headlines. Overall, he is advocating censorship of issues that deserve public attention, after all, it’s not activist groups that decide headlines, it’s public interest and demand for certain discourses.

The next bit is the end interaction between the journalist and Watterson:

Journalist: “The League says the highways are not being policed.”

Watterson: “That’s rubbish.”

Journalist: “There you go!”

“There you go” is not an acceptable journalistic response to such an empty and sweeping dismissal of criticism. No politician should be able to write off accountability by just saying “that’s rubbish”. The journalist fails to be unbiased in so far as they do not challenge the statement. Further, they offer it some endorsement by saying “there you go!”, an expression that is akin to saying “so there you have it as fact” or “that’s how it is, no further questions needed”.

Overall, whilst the journalist is not explicitly biased or anti-Celtic League, he is biased simply because he does not perform the role of a journalist which is to thoroughly question the interviewee in the name of public information and accountability.

Guild

The remarks regarding the Celtic League seem neutral, but somewhat undermined by saying “Whatever the Celtic League thinks…” before talking about Stewart Bennett. It’s interesting since that expression makes it sound like Stewart Bennett is going to say or is doing something contradictory to the view of the Celtic League. However, it’s not possible to say if the journalist intended to do that or if they just thought it was a nice sounding link.

The lead into the Stewart Bennett interview is perhaps more interesting and loaded. When describing the event the journalist says “where a competitor or…basically he decided to quit because he wasn’t happy with the sponsorship of this year’s festival”. The situation is a bit more complicated than someone deciding to “quit”. Actually, someone made a protest and withdrew. Saying they were “unhappy…and quit” portrays their actions as a kind of tantrum.

They also describe the event as a “big success story”, a value based judgement made by the journalist and not quoted from an outside source (unbiased reporting would have to include something like “…according to the organisers”). Calling it a “big success story” before interviewing Stewart frames the interview in a certain light, specifically one that makes Stewart seem “anti-cultural success” and trivial. They also say that he “walked out”, although in reality he made a rational and calm protest before formally withdrawing. (“Walked out” is an emotive expression associated with heated arguments and can make the protestor seem irrational.)

The Stewart Bennett item is followed immediately by pro-Guild sentiments, including “long may it continue”. This is not reporting of facts, i.e., unbiased journalism: it completely writes off Stewart Bennett’s actions and message.

Ethically speaking, on the “nation’s station”, personal value judgements should stay out of journalism, and equal weight should be given to all sides of an argument.

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Phew! That’s a relief MR are ‘not biased or anti-Celtic League’.

That was good we’ll have to do this more often.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League

05/05/15

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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Hafan


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