Some weeks ago I was out canvassing. I was in an area of the town that is not very prosperous. Probably many of the people I spoke to would at some stage or another need to rely on the state. You would think this is a solid Labour estate. This impression held good for most of the morning, but there are always some exceptions.
One particular gentlemen, was reading his paper as I went up the path. Tabloid, probably the Mail. He came to the door and we chatted for quite a while. He said that he had lost faith in all politicians, because none of them told the truth. He said he would normally think of himself as a socialist, but he would probably never vote Labour again because he was disillusioned. He did not want a Conservative Government because they would be no good either, and if he bothered to vote at all it would probably be BNP.
I like a challenge, I would have stayed to say a little about the problem of seeing the whole picture though the felt press. I would also have wished to defend the honour of my own MP who I know to be one of the most truthful men I have ever met, but my companions had moved on to the next street, and I felt I would get nowhere.
I left him to his paper, and set off to find my companions, thinking as I went about a little exchange I had had with the local press earlier in the morning.
There was a significant meeting of the Health Scutiny Committee meeting in on the subject of Stafford Hospital in Stafford Last week. The local press seldom have the space, or inclination to give the kind of detail I am looking for so I went along in person and took notes. The press reporting was thin, and missed significant details so I decided to send a letter to the editor.
I reported truthfully the account given by the interim Chairman of the Hospital. Up until now the press line has been that things at the Hospital are going from bad to worse, because that is where the “story” lies. My letter documents the fact that there is steady improvement in a number of areas. The editor had inadvertently let it slip that this “does not fit” in an email to me earlier in the morning. It remains to be seen if he will publish my letter!
I always make a point of trying to understand people’s positions. I like most of the politicians I have ever met, even those that I do not agree with. Most are there because they have a wish to “make a difference”. Most of them have a real awareness of the complex things that we need to do to make things better.
Most of the journalists I have ever met are perceptive and curious people who want to know and want to show things that they find important. I have liked most of them too.
It is not just my BNP voter with his Daily Mail who relies on the press for his view of the world, and of politicians. We all do so to some extent. Many of us have lost trust in the press as a true mirror of reality. That is why we are all relying more and more on twitter and the different voices we select to trust. I think the press has a choice. It can become the medium for exchange of ideas and information that we really desperately need, or it can simply allow itself to become irrelevant.
There are so many big challenges that really need our attention now. I do not believe that politicians are able to make enough headway on these alone without the active support of the press.
Is the press able to rise to the challenge of letting people tell the truth?