The article in The Scotsman on 22 May under the headline ‘The idea that Scotland has handled Covid well is a PR con job’ was no doubt carefully constructed – let’s use the term ‘fabricated’ – by its author, Kevin Christie.
The article is typical, perhaps a classic, of its genre. But why does it deserve such an accolade? Simply because, as is common nowadays, it has been comprehensively demolished by a ‘mere’ citizen journalist fully exploiting the research resources of … just ‘himself’!
When the TuSC reports on ‘NINE ways Scotland HAS handled Covid-19 pandemic better’ and moreover provides explicit references to independent sources to back up each claim, the contrast between citizen journalism and so-called journalism in The Scotsman becomes stark.
Why have we reached this ‘pretty pass’: why is this so much the norm?
Is this newspaper so convinced that its remaining circulation – and its survival – depends on pumping out polemics with anti-SNP, anti-Scottish independence, anti-Scottish Government messages in various combinations? Is it convinced that the majority of its readership will only pay money for its journalism if they see these ‘anti-‘ buttons repeatedly pressed? It certainly seems so.
And now The Scotsman is clearly content to pursue this commercial tactic by attempting to undermine public trust in the Scottish Government and Scotland’s heath system in the midst of a deadly public health emergency.
I wonder how many readers of The Scotsman would care that Mr Christie’s polemic – which they are paying for after all – is so easily demolished by a citizen journalist’s fact-based response? On the range of Scotland’s polity, do they not want to read more authoritative, defensible accounts; access robust and challenging evidence; gain new and different insights; be given proper ‘context’?
If The Scotsman is acting on a corporate view that its readership lacks the appetite for any of the foregoing benefits, will these readers ever wake up and realise how disrespectful and patronising to them this really is? Or is The Scotsman right, that there is still a sufficient market for its product among those whose engrained ‘belief system’ is too fragile to want, or to cope with, anything else from it – and is satisfying that demand now the extent of The Scotsman’s ambition?
Footnote: anyone with experience of visiting Edinburgh during the weeks of the International Book Festival may wonder with me how The Scotsman will cope this year following the Festival’s cancellation without the ‘boost’ to circulation from selling off piles of ‘goodie bags’ along with a copy of the paper daily at the entrance to the Charlotte Square venue. The combination of a rag with tat never appealed to me but the piles did seem to disappear!