The media we need

Ross Greer condemns The National as “cringe-inducing”. But the overwhelming impression I get from his extended whine is that he brought the cringe with him.

His complaint appears to be that The National is not like other papers.That it’s not what he’s accustomed to thinking of as a ‘serious; newspaper. In this, he transgresses against perhaps the only good advice ever offered by Mike Small, of Bella Caledonia, when he urged that we should get away from accepting the British state as the standard by which all things are judged. Which, presumably, extends to the media arm of the British establishment.

Ross seems to suppose that, because The National doesn’t look like The Herald or (heaven forfend!) The Scotsman, then it is unlikely to be regarded as a ‘real’ newspaper. And he has a point. People have expectations. Challenge those expectations too hard or too fast, and your target audience is likely to instinctively reject – or, at least, doubt – the authenticity of what is being presented to them. This is something which I have long insisted that the ‘new’ media of the Yes movement be mindful of. It’s not just in terms of circulation and reach that the mainstream media must be matched and, hopefully, surpassed but also in terms of authority. To a considerable degree, that authority depends on conforming to a certain style. The style which has, over time, come to be associated in people’s minds with the authority that alternative media is seeking to acquire.

But this is not a hard and fast rule. Which is where Ross Greer goes wrong. Expectations can be challenged. In fact, they must be challenged if stagnation is to be avoided. The degree to which people are wedded to their own ideas of what a newspaper should look like varies immensely. Ross seems to be tending towards the rigid end of that spectrum.

This is unfortunate. But not significant. Ross Greer is but one individual. He is. as we are constantly and pointlessly reminded, entitled to his opinion. Those who think as he does will find affirmation in his niggling and nit-picking. But there is an alternative perspective which may give the open-minded some pause for thought.

Much is made of Scotland’s distinctive political culture – both by those who are happy to acknowledge it and those who are anxious to deny it. Dismissing the latter as blinkered bigots, I will insist on the reality of this distinctive political culture. I will do so without presenting any argument here. I have done so at what some would doubtless denounce as tedious length elsewhere.

Given that Scotland has this distinctive political culture, it follows that we need media which reflect that distinctiveness. If Scotland’s newspapers are to be Scottish newspapers then they must defy expectations derived from a British political culture that is increasingly alien. They must test our ability to set aside those expectations. They must challenge us to reject the notion that ‘British’ is normal.

Ross Greer is evidently having some issues with this adjustment. Let’s put it no more strongly than that. My own opinion is that The National is doing a rather good job of being the new media that Scotland needs. Some say it’s not ‘bold’ enough; with ‘bold’ being defined according to each individual’s ideas of what is important. Others maintain that it goes too far and thereby forfeits some measure of authority. They’re probably all correct to at least some extent. To all, including Ross Greer, I would say only that we should be grateful somebody is making the effort. We should be glad of the fact that we have, six days a week, evidence that a different perspective is possible.

That Callum Baird and his team may occasionally get it wrong is vastly less important than that The National exists.

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9 thoughts on “The media we need

  1. Ianmc

    The banality of all the carping from supposidly Yes supporters about the Yes family is beginning to grate. Clearly they aren’t focussed ejough on the things which matter that they can waste time and column inches on trivialities like this. I suggest Ross Greer focus on saving the planet, saving EU citizens from disaster inherent in Brexit or improving our lot. Moabing aboit a paper’s covers is just frankly petty. Pish patter.

  2. Johnny

    I think it’s right to congratulate the National for making the effort, as you say.

    The biggest problem, in my honest opinion, is that they are only one paper and will appeal only to a certain audience.

    There is a real need for a tabloid style pro-Indy paper (albeit not one that engages in heavy much-raking!) as I think the National is a little ‘high brow’ (and for some people tedious) in some of the arguments made and things it talks about. Need a paper prepared to scream in a tabloid way about the SCANDAL of particular Westminster policies and so on, as well as covering most other things tabloids do (though maybe leaving out celebrity nonsense haha). I reckon there’s an audience for that (fair-sized too) if only someone had the will to do it.

    I don’t mean that to sound like I am having a go at The National. It’s just as some people wouldn’t read The Herald or The Sun because they have a preferred style of newspaper, the same holds true here. Only pro-Indy supporters DON’T HAVE another choice of paper if they don’t like The National’s style.

  3. Willie John

    Who the heck is Ross Greer? I certainly haven’t seen him as someone worth paying any attention to.

  4. SandyW

    Don’t disagree much with the above, Peter. However, I was reasonably impressed that Greer took the National up on their request to write a reasoned article on his issues with the paper and that they printed it with their own, reasoned, response. Good to see that people can have a grown-up discussion about their differing views without resort to throwing insults at each other. That’s the kind of media I’d like to see a bit more of.

    1. Nick Edmunds

      I agree, the reasoned debate shows a maturity which should continue to gain respect.

      I also agree, though, with the calls for a Sun/Record style pro-Indy paper to balance things generally.

      Nick

  5. Dougie Lockhart

    I appreciate the spirit behind the National but, although I buy it every day as a sort of ritual, to me it’s a lot too much opinion and not enough (any?) journalism. It looks as if they just collected all the prominent Yes bloggers (except the really effective ones like Wings) and gave them some column space.

    I had a lot of time for Greer as a bright young thing but he hasn’t done himself, or perhaps more importantly the Greens, any favours with his outburst. I gave first preference to the Greens in our recent council elections: that choice is now under review.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I’m looking at a copy of The National, and I’m looking at your first paragraph, and I’m wondering what the connection is between the two

  6. Ottomanboi

    He and the rest of the so-called ‘Green party’ are I suspect fair weather friends who have latched onto independence and the national movement to give themselves some semblance of political credibility. It seems a rag bag collection of half-baked ideas peddled by eccentrics with little grasp of reality. The solitary world of ‘gender politics’ is about its limit. Mr Greer might be happier relocating to Brighton.

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