On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning was an interview with former Sun editor, David Yelland. He was talking about his views on press regulation and the Royal Charter, attacking the press for their reaction to the output from the Leveson inquiry.
While it was an interesting take on matters, focused on the Leveson Anniversary Lecture he is delivering today at the Free Word Centre and covered in the Guardian today, one small snippet of his speech that he shared on air stood out as being an invaluable insight from a heavyweight media insider:
One of the most potent weapons a newspaper has is to totally ignore an issue or a story. People attack papers for what they print. But what they don’t print is often the bigger story.
This is essential for people to understand.
For campaigns such as those concerned with leaving the EU, challenging climate change orthodoxy, demanding democratic reform, exposing abuses and failings of the establishment and so on, this bias by omission is all too familiar and occurs all too frequently. Another example of it has surfaced today. It is invariably a weapon deployed in the interest of the media itself – but most frequently in support of agendas in the interest of the political class (which the media relies on for stories) and the rest of the establishment. This cosy little stitch up, by and for people who consider themselves important, is designed to keep people in ignorance and conceal truths that are inconvenient to the establishment.
While this and many other blogs have often pointed at instances of bias by omission in favour of the establishment, very rarely does a member of it break ranks like this and admit the truth in such a transparent and matter of fact way. Yelland reinforces the reality with another observation, thus:
[...] Whether they are mad or just lack self-awareness, the fact is editors and proprietors in this country see themselves as the small guy, the powerless man struggling against the establishment. What they fail to grasp is that they have become the establishment themselves. They are the powerful, and others are the weak.
He also confirms the pack mentality and derivative nature of the media – which while focused in this instance on the reaction to Leveson, equally applies to just about every major issue covered (or ignored) by this country’s press:
The press has done itself no favours in the biased way this entire matter has been reported, when it has been reported at all. Few papers have dared differ from the fundamental response to the great mess that caused the Leveson inquiry in the first place. There is a party line. And nearly everybody follows it.
The media cannot be relied upon. Every story that is published needs to be viewed through a filter where one should ask themself; why has this story been covered, whose interest is being served, what is the other point of view, how and why were those providing comment selected, and what information has been excluded from the story?
It may seem cynical to do this, but it is the only way to shield oneself from the cynical manipulation to which the public is subjected by the press, be it broadcast, print or electronic.