Truth, the whole truth

I’ll be honest; I’m a bit of a news junkie.

I have followed recent stories such as the Greek bailout, the appearance of odd bits of disappeared airplane MH-370 and the to-ings and fro-ings of the complex web of conflict that dominates the Middle East with boundless interest and energy.  To come across a discarded newspaper on a train is a delight.

And all hail those journalists that bring us this daily smorgasbord of fascination.  I sit there open mouthed at the bravery of television reporters telling us what’s happening between bursts of gunfire in troubled parts of the world.  And although there are inevitably brickbats thrown at our press and TV news, the world turns to our news services in the UK for an unbiased understanding of world events (when I come to power, I would be boosting the funding of the BBC world service: I can’t help thinking we’d be doing far more good in the world spending money on that rather than buying a couple more submarines).

But sometimes; quite frequently, in fact, you hear of stories in the news that are difficult to interpret.  Avid news watchers know that there is a “code” that broadcasters use to euphemistically describe situations.  We know what an “incident” on a railway line is.  We know when they tell us on the Today programme on radio 4 in the morning that “nobody from Company X was available to come on the show” that availability as such wasn’t the issue.  We know that when they say that police have found a body, but it “hasn’t been formally identified” yet that the police won’t be scratching their heads wondering who the heck this person was!  We also know that when a politician says to a broadcast interviewer “No, that question misses the point”, that the question is right on the bull’s eye!

We also know that the news agencies, even if they are relatively unbiased, are keen to tell us the juiciest, the most dramatic and captivating part of the story.  After all, that’s what gets us to buy the papers or tune in to the radio.  That “dramatisation” of the news tends to throw up “heroes and villains in each of these stories.  The wicked local council.  The generous hearted unwitting victim of some government policy.  The upright person falsely accused.

So often these days I listen to news stories and am absolutely bursting to know what the real situation is.  Take the story about the abrupt and dramatic closure of children’s charity Kids Company.  Has the charity been misjudged by the media and civil service as the charity’s flamboyant founder contests, or was it more a case of the government drawing the line on the funding after repeated attempts to get the charity to run its affairs properly?  The problem is that, however forensic John Humphreys on the Today programme is in his questioning, we never really get to be able to the bottom of the subject given a few minutes of airtime.

This is why; although they rarely make headlines, the authors of independent reports and parliamentary select committees are important.  They do spend the time to get at the truth, however uncomfortable that truth may be.  Truth, democracy and the rule of law go together and they are the hallmarks of a civilised Society.   They are values that we should hold dear.

In Current Affairs

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