Thanks to LA for bringing these pieces to my attention.
Visit the dentist and he pulls the wrong molar and you can sue him. If your surgeon removes a healthy kidney instead of a diseased liver you can sue him and get him struck off. He might even end up in jail. If your lawyer forgets to file your mortgage approval you can report him to the Law Society where he might lose his licence to practice.
But if a journalist gets a story wrong and the editor of the newspaper sits on his or her hands there is nothing really that you can do about it, apart from choosing an alternative morning read.
David Hearst used to be a reporter for The Guardian where, inter alia, his beat for a while was Belfast, which is where I remember him from. He went on to become a distinguished foreign correspondent but these days he is editor-in-chief of The Middle East Eye, a web-based magazine that specialises in intelligent, informed coverage of the various crises in that unfortunate part of the world.
In the wake of the recent UK general election, Hearst turned his attention to his old employer’s disastrous coverage not just of the recent election but of British politics in general and came to the damning conclusion that the paper’s reportage has been wrong all the time.
As he writes:
My former colleagues on The Guardian hold an enviable record in the annals of political journalism. They have succeeded in getting the result of every major political event in the country wrong.
Even if you tried consistently to be wrong, fate would decree that occasionally you would get one result right. Their consistency in getting things so wrong, for so long, challenges the theory of random number generation. The infinite monkey theorem holds that a monkey hitting keys of keyboards at random ad infinitum would eventually type the works of Shakespeare. This is not true. The Guardian never gets a political result right.
And, in relation to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s performance against Theresa May, he opines:
After spending two years trashing the possibility that Corbyn could win elections, The Guardian’s coverage must be judged harshly. An apology is due.
You can read his piece in full, here.
If he is looking for a mea culpa from his old employer, I would advise him not to hold his breath. At least if post-election journalism in the Grauniad is anything to go by. Here is Polly Toynbee, one of the paper’s star columnists, writing before the election, and after the election in articles that were separated by less than eight weeks:
And Toynbee had the utter audacity to write:
Nothing succeeds like success. Jeremy Corbyn looks like a new man, beaming with confidence, benevolence and forgiveness to erstwhile doubters, exuding a new father-of-the-nation air of authority, calmly awaiting his imminent elevation to power. When I met him on Sunday he clasped my hand and, with a twinkle and a wink, thanked me for things I had written.
‘Thanked me for things I had written’ – that’s called sarcasm Polly and a sly dig which translates as, ‘Thanks for showing the world what a plonker you are’. In the Guardian’s offices, she is not alone.
Meanwhile, The Grauniad sails on as if nothing untoward has happened at all.