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.Views: 2816
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