Can May last as PM?

 

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Theresa May faces hard questions. Source: Sky News

Incredible how one year makes a hell of a difference to a person, isn’t it? Theresa May’s sail to the Conservative leadership was on par with a luxury liner gliding the Greek coast. Less than 12 months later, her tenorship has a greater reminiscence of a tug boat in the stormy Irish sea.

When the former resident of 10 Downing Street (Mr Cameron) bailed out of the top job as a result of the EU Referendum, it was a certainty that Mrs May would win. Several years as the Home Secretary had given her good ground for understanding how top level government actually runs. Her supporters claimed she would be a strong leader with a different style to her predecessors – no backhand deals, no political favourites; instead a straight talking, no nonsense woman as leader of the United Kingdom government. She won by default; two candidates were eliminated in the leadership race and two others withdrew.

She boasted in parliament that the Conservative Party did a lot for women – ‘they just keep making us Prime Minister her words were’ to rapturous applause. At the time of her first PMQ’s session, there had been the turmoil in within the Labour Party surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; Mrs May even ‘joked’ about Corbyn being an unscrupulous boss. The clearest of evidence of what would follow in the 2017 General Election campaign.

The latter half of 2016 was certainly strong for the ‘new iron lady’ – her posture, her body language, her speeches were all strong. The result? Her popularity soared. So what went wrong?

The first of the big U-turns was on the election itself. In the months before, she had continuously claimed an election was not needed. There would be no general election until the end of the parliament. 18th April 2017 – Mrs M stands outside 10 Downing Street and announces a snap general election to be held on June 8th. A clever decision at the time – Labour still in disarray, Theresa May’s popularity very high. It was hers to lose. And she did.

Calling the #GE2017 (at least the first of 2017) had critics frothing at the mouth, accusing her of backtracking and going against her previous promises. She had already vocally criticised the Scottish National Party (SNP) for seeking a second independence referendum, citing that it was not the right time given the brexit negotiations. Mrs May’s argument had weakened; yes, she was holding the election before June 19th when the talks formally begin, however, the SNP argued that the PM had insisted no talks on a new referendum for Scotland could begin until Britain had left the European Union. The air had already began to thicken with the smell of contradictions.

The biggest problem for the PM was the way she handled the campaign. Hers was a very personal affair – ‘me and my team’ was a frequent message. The snipes at Jeremy Corbyn and his team, as well as other political parties, showed how much she had misjudged the public mood to this election. The PM made it clear the election was about giving ‘her’  a mandate for the brexit talks and strengthening her hand by having a greater majority. All that despite already having a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. THere appeared to be a definite shift from the politics of bygone era which Theresa May was clinging on to; there was a feeling that political parties should work together on issues such as brexit, the health system, and infrastructure. Sadly for Mrs May she made the campaign about herself, badgering on about how strong a leader she is compared to others. She made the election result a judgement not on her party and government but on her personally. This clip from Channel 4 News gives a sense of the snipes made in the final week of #GE2017:

The facial expressions, the choice of language. It is all wrong. This is a Prime Minister acting like the school playground bully. The cavalry behind give her support with the boos and hisses.

The Labour Party campaign was far from perfect yet it was certainly more positive with lots of rallies and talk about their funded policies. Mr Corbyn turned the fortune of the party and the heads of his critics. He engaged voters, the young particularly. For the first time in many years, the Labour opposition seemed to be united behind a manifesto; yes, some of the things were eyebrow-raising such as the cost of scrapping tuition fees and funding the re-nationalisation of the railways. But was there slyness and witch-hunting that seemed to dominate the Conservative campaign?

Sure, there were other stumbles too. The U-turn on social care following a wild backlash. It’s claimed her two closest advisers took responsibility for the shambles. But there is only one person who gives the go ahead and chooses what words to speak – the PM. The responsibility falls with her.

She is not a naturally good speaker when it comes to interviews. Mrs May starts one sentence and usually ends with another, interluded by an awkward stumble of words.  When it became apparent that the PM isn’t as good as we may have thought when thrust in front of the cameras, many saw it as a weakness. ‘Ahh that’s the reason why she’s not doing the TV debates’ many will have thought. Coupled with the dredging out of tired soundbites such as “strong and stable”, certainly the attitude of simply repeating words without any real meaning or explanation grated on voters.

June 9th. Theresa May’s snap election goes against her. Rather than retain the majority she already had, she lost it. Where Labour were already written off, they gained seats. The PM stood outside Downing Street and did not acknowledge the very personal failure she had just endured. Sweeping the issue under the carpet. Voters don’t forget. #GE2017 was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. The mood turned from brexit to the home domestic issues such as security, policing, health services, and so on. Her time as Home Secretary led to the cuts in police forces we see today – Greater Manchester Police confirmed that they do need extra officers to keep the public safe. Voters don’t forget.

When Gordon Brown was PM in 2007, his popularity increased when he dealt with the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport and the foiled attack in London. A matter of weeks in to the top job, there were calls for him to call a snap election and secure a Labour victory. The mood was different in this latest campaign. Three terrorist attacks in just a few months with Mrs May as leader and protector of British citizens. She came under fire for why these attacks could happen on her watch, and subsequently questions about whether her actions in the past had led to a less safe Britain. Voters do not forget.

The ‘coalition of chaos’ that May had warned about if SHE had lost her majority was now the problem on her plate. A strained Theresa May looked very different from the popular and powerful-looking leader who became PM in 2016. She gambled. She lost. Her calls of Corbyn being a puppet propped up by the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon had backfired. Her political attacks and misjudgment of the voter mood had backfired. Her credibility gone.

Within days, the terrible events of the Grenfell Tower fire has become her latest challenge. Forced to run to her car and avoiding questions from the crowd of residents of Kensington and Chelsea showed her weakness. The community affected by the fire, the charities, the victims, the families, the now homeless, they all needed their Prime Minister in a time of despair. Their Queen and Prince William spoke with those directly affected by the fire; the Prime Minister faced a backlash after meeting the emergency services. Only the day after meeting the emergency services did she visit the hospital where few of the victims were being treated.

In contrast, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan were on the scene, hugging victims and listening to what they had to say. This was about measuring the mood of an area that have had their voices unheard for too long. It is right that they want the questions of why this fire happened answered immediately. Their PM bundled away into a car, stern-faced and cold. Again, she misjudged the public mood and anger. They needed their PM to answer and assure them. She acted too late.

A Prime Minister who can misjudge the national feeling on several occasions is one in need of a dire cold shower. The landscape of politics has changed too. Voters are unengaged by political mud slinging and playground taunts. Theresa May had everything she needed on a plate – popularity, majority, credibility. Now, almost all of that had whimpered away. The scene is a Prime Minister who’s mistiming and irreversible mistakes have cost her big time. She could have gone down as one of the greatest PM’s in history if she had played her cards right. But ‘Play Your Cards Right’ is a gameshow and there is always a loser. Her political career will be tarnished by the events of 2017 and anything she does say and do will be judged and alluded to the mistakes she made.

 

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The call for peace

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Source: The Independent 

The last few days have been dreadful. Yet amongst the hatred is a shining light of hope and reassurance. The people of Manchester and far further have come together. Political leaders have stopped the mud-slinging contest of the general election (for now). For me, one of the phrases that has stuck with me comes from Colin Parry OBE. On the topic of terrorism, we need to prevent gaps widening in our society, encourage diversity at a local level, and in response to the calls to ‘throw them out our country’, Mr Parry says no. ‘Throw them in to our peace centre’ he says.

This is a man who has experienced what many of the Manchester victims’ families will be experiencing. It’s difficult for anyone to comprehend the barbaric loss of a child, teenager, young adult, mums and dads, who were simply enjoying life. For Colin Parry, the story is similar. His son, Tim Parry, was one of the victims of the Warrington IRA bomb attack in 1993. His accounts are well documented as are his natural emotional responses in the aftermath of the attack.

The Foundation for Peace, set up by Colin Parry and his wife Wendy, was in response to attempts to bring peace to a troubled Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Since then, there has been an evolution of peace brought to the streets of Northern Ireland; the threat of terrorism has not gone away. For so many young people, the events of the 2000s and 2010s has seen the shift of how terrorist atrocities are carried out. Colin Parry is the embodiment of peace and this is how the foundation describes what it does:

“We do not take sides, we are not aligned to any conflict, we are not faith or political based and we do not pursue causes such as justice or truth.”

At first glance, it may seem undue for such an organisation not to seek the truth. But tackling terrorism and extremists is not about truth. The great work of the Greater Manchester police force will deal with investigating the truth and seeking some sort of comfort and justice for the families affected – notably by unraveling the network of terrorist connections.

Colin Parry is a man who speaks compassionate sense in difficult circumstances. As does Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester. Both appeared on the BBC’s Question Time in the days after the Manchester bomb. It wasn’t about taking sides or showing how political parties will respond. It was about coming together, uniting, and pausing to understand how peace can be achieved.

All panelists on that edition of Question Time were in large agreement. Tackling terror plots requires more than simply shutting Britain’s borders and hoping such cowards don’t find their way in. The police and intelligence services will already be foiling terrorist activity as you read this – and the work they do which we are not fully aware of is something that we should be thankful for.

So how do you stop or flush out terrorist activity? Well it’s difficult. As the panelists on Question Time agreed it comes down to the ‘grassroots’ of communities across the United Kingdom. The terrorist who brought Manchester together in its darkest period was a student at a local university; he lived in Greater Manchester’s suburbs; he was born in the UK just like millions of others. Yet he turned on his own city, targeting the youngest and most innocent.  It is not for me to judge what he did in the weeks, months, possibly years, in the run up to the attack. What is almost certain, however, is that somewhere along the line he was radicalised. His behaviour probably changed, his thoughts and perspective more than likely differed from those he previously had. His brain became washed with this evil. There is no finger pointing to be had either as to who could have stopped him and so on. It simply does not assist the situation at this time.

Britain is now a multicultural, multinational island of communities. Everyone, from religious groups to the average atheist college student, has a duty to be vigilant. It may be difficult to identify a change in someones behaviour which may indicate they are identifying with extremist views. That is where Colin Parry and his peace centre come in.

The Foundation for Peace works on the following stages:

  • Transforming communities
  • Advocacy – training people to raise the difficult issues
  • Sharing experiences – the charity is a safe environment for people to come and share their backgrounds and gain support.
  • Dialogue – a crucial communication link between conflicting parties to help understand eachother and challenge prejudices
  • Conflict resolution – understanding why conflict happens and how it can be dealt with a non-violent way.
  • Leadership – allowing people to take back their skills to their own communities.

The Peace Centre in Warrington exists as a result of bereaved parents who came back from a troubled Northern Ireland full in the knowledge that they could make a difference. The threat of terrorism is very much a different scale to that of when The Foundation for Peace was set up. But that doesn’t mean its values, ethics and purposes should be any different.

The Peace Centre can teach anyone, those who need help or those who simply want to learn. It is not about alienating people, it’s not about making assumptions, it’s not about segregating communities. There may be little comfort for the city of Manchester at present but on this truly awful week, people like Colin Parry and organisations like The Foundation for Peace are needed more than ever.

 

UKIP – Endangered Species?

Here is a controversial thought: The UK Independence Party serve no purpose and may as well use their manifesto booklet to create paper mache hat for Jean-Claude Juncker.

Here’s another: UKIP is proving itself to be a fighting force in the 2017 election and have every chance of securing a majority (or at least a couple of seats.)

Which is more true? As the election campaign 2017 (2K17 as the youthful Lib Dems may say) has shown, there can be ups and lots of downs. The class clown and the butt (or Abut) of jokes has been Diane Abbott. The wishful thinking Shadow Home Secretary showing how politics most definitely is not done.

Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP incase you were scratching your head, renamed the Plaid Cymru leader Natalie in a bizarre election debate (her real name being Leanne). Perhaps it demonstrates the far cry the party of purple has come; from one of the most significant politicians in a generation to perhaps the most unprepared.

Nigel Farage was a character. He’s not dead but he very nearly was killed before the polls had even closed at the 2010 general election. Flying a plane with a tail banner, reserved only for the most enthusiastic football fans, which suddenly became caught in the engine, sending the then UKIP leader and his plane down to the ground. Somehow, Theresa May  donning the brown leathers for a trip in the sky is unlikely to appear this time around, however satisfying I think it may be. The message really is about how charismatic Nigel Farage was as a leader of something he passionately believed in.

Whether that something was right or wrong is a matter of opinion. There are those who call UKIP a racist, homophobic, out-of-touch party, and those who say that the party is standing up for the interests of the United Kingdom. Fair enough on both sides. What differs is the type of person who leads that party.

When Farage announced he was stepping down as its leader, following the 2016 EU Referendum, there was a sense of sadness. Never before have I been amused when watching the ten o’clock news, but when Mr Farage turned up, the news turned into a comedy performance. From his facial expressions to his drinking a pint with the crosshatch coat brigade, he was the politician and leader who stood out from the rest.  Though he had fans and his enemies, UKIP sparked debate and conversation about politics.

For UKIP-ers in 2017, the story is bleak. Their only MP decided to sit as an independent MP rather than represent the party. Its current leader (Paul Nuttall incase you’re still scratching that head) lacks that personality and performance that Farage gave when talking about politics. When Mr F got himself into a hole, and there were many, he managed to somehow squirm his way out with a few potent hand gestures and a couple of big words from the Dictionary of the European Commission.

On the other hand, Paul Nuttall’s recent downhill tumble seemed to begin with Hillsborough. A sensitive topic, particularly on his home turf of Merseyside. His claims about being caught up in the disaster were found to be untrue. When a colleague of his said they were responsible for the message about the incident being posted, it was clear that although Nuttall was apologetic he was perhaps an untrustworthy leader.

The issue for me is about passion for politics. There is no doubt that the current UKIP main man has an impressive CV of political involvement. However, watching the interviews, the debates, the talking heads, there is no sense of passion. Where Farage could draw a crowd and speak truly of what he believed in, Nuttall’s polar opposition to the old dog is not engaging. He may not be the greatest public speaker, nor the greatest person to remember names, but the flare and enthusiasm that UKIP and its supporters had during previous campaigns seems to have fizzled away.

Will UKIP become extinct? It could be argued the party had risen from extinct-ness in the latter half of the 2000s. Though the party has been around 1993, its purpose and pledges to create an independent United Kingdom seemed to speak reason to British people by 2010 onwards. Their target? The traditional Labour red seats. And although the land hadn’t been turned purple at the last election, there is no doubt that a successful campaign of taking controls of local councils helped in creating a new political landscape which targeted issues that many traditional Labour voters felt had been ignored – that of immigration. It seemed to be their only pledge, or at least the only one which was reported, and still the other leaders in the 2017 campaign accuse UKIP of using immigration to solve the array of issues in the UK.

The country is at its limit. Once proud, green space is now occupied by new homes. There are still fears, from UKIP’s 55+ demographic (according to YouGov), that immigration is the crippling issue affecting our services. However, immigration is being tackled by the big parties – Labour saying freedom of movement will end once the UK leaves the European Union but still no concrete target on those numbers; the Conservatives also have an immigration pledge but according to one of their senior figures they don’t know when it will be achieved nor how much it will cost.

So, the issue returns back to passion. UKIP’s previous role was to demand an EU Referendum. That has now happened. Supporters appear to have moved on from the UKIP days and its clear their passion was for Nigel Farage and the supposed holy path he walked along. Those actively involved in the campaign remain passionate but from television news reports, there is an element of fear tingling in their eyes.  Mr Nuttall just doesn’t seem to do the job of Farage; he’ll say he’s not a Farage puppet but instead his own man. Yet his messages don’t seem to be sparking the debate that Farage’s once did.

UKIP has been accused of racism and all kinds; something which the party and its former leader say is untrue and a fabrication of media representation. Politics is about voting for policy but also placing faith and trust in the leader who makes those pledges. Sadly for UKIP, the passion once owned by Farage and his fans has dwindled. They may still have a purpose but just to be on the safe side, a purchase of shares in a paper mache company may be advisable.

 

 

Obsessive: Fascination with the weather leaving Britain ‘high and dry’

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#UKStorm2013 is the hashtag being used by thousands, including Downing Street, to archive the plight of Britain. Our fascination with the weather. It has been dubbed the “worst storm for years” yet in reality it feels very much like the biannual occurrence of high winds and heavy rain. British media aims to reach to so many and so you could be forgiven for thinking nothing else has happened over the past 24 hours. Some websites have even produced maps so that viewers can “track the storm”. Worse than all, it isn’t just the ‘storm’ that will bring down Britain. Any peak of any weather type seems to grind Britain and her economy to an unflattering halt.

As some commentators observed, the motion of cancelling rail services before the storm had even arrived, had similarities to caving in before the worst arrived; others suggested it wasn’t typical of the British to simply give in, in the face of ‘adverse’ weather conditions. But that is what happened. By 5pm Sunday evening, the majority of train services in the South (before 9am) had already been cancelled, leaving rush hour commuters in chaos and stranded at home. Fallen trees, flooded lines and dangerously high winds had been predicted and predicted correct they were. An empty passenger train was hit by a falling tree, whilst power cables on lines in and out London’s busiest stations have been brought down, leaving many commuters, those as far as the North West and beyond receiving the effects of the weather that the South had suffered with overnight. It is a similar story when every type of poor weather conditions hit Britain. The rail network instantly crumbles, costing the industry millions of pounds worth of delays and cancellations, thousands of pounds worth of customer refunds and exchanges, and unimaginable amounts to Britain’s economy.

As is with the anticipation and subsequent arrival of any weather news, journalists and reporters are sent out into the depths of Britain to gain a true understanding as to how people are coping in the face of abject misery. Although many are suffering, with thousands of homes without power and schools closed, what humour can be gained is served from digital news channels. There is something eerily strange about an empty Victoria Station at the height of the Monday rush hour; for those who arrived only to find their trains cancelled, comments such as “I’m considering getting a taxi” may beg the question as to whether it is actually news. A cameraman being blown over on a beach by the force of the winds is more you’ve been framed than Sky News, whilst the drenched appearance of a journalist amongst the weather questions the safety of BBC reporters.

Some of the topics discussed during the out of ordinary weather conditions seem to be rather nonsensical. BBC Local Radio have been requesting people to email, tweet them or phone them if they have lost power in their home. Some reporters have turned consumer advisor, telling people how to cope in the weather ahead of the apparent end of the world. Coastguards have warned of the dangers of being near the coasts and so nearly every journalist covering the natural event has headed to the coast. Every breath taken by somebody covering the story seems to be point blank obvious to the extent where it becomes funny.

For hour upon hour, TV news channels tell the same story. Amongst the warnings issued, even with Downing Street advice, include not to travel. It is always a bizarre statement. How are we not to travel? In the face of such acts from above, Britain cannot just grind to a halt and wait for the rain to pass by. It is completely and utterly unviable. Over one hundred flights cancelled at Heathrow is perhaps understandable, as is the cancellation of cross-channel ferry is such rough conditions. How can motorists travelling the United Kingdom simply give in? If everybody did take advice on driving slower and taking more time for journeys then we would be in a pleasant environment. Arrogant drivers who appear in a completely different environment to everybody else are those who cause danger and death. There are still ways of keeping Britain going in the face of wind and rain.

It isn’t just the #UKStorm2013 that has got TV news gripped. The snow troubles advise thousands to simply sit tight and wait. The same footage of sliding cars, closed schools, snowy fields and disrupted airports are unimaginatively churned out every time. At the other end of the calendar lies unexpected warm weather which causes disruption, oddly. Buckled railway lines, melting roads and warnings of stay indoors and drink lots of water feels very much like a political nanny state recycled again through news bulletins. Whatever the weather, 24 hour news channels will cover events. It isn’t news, we all know. Yet there is some kind of trepidation and enigma of seeing somewhere feeling the force of the weather compared to your own comforts which are unaffected.

The fascination with our weather is unexplainable. 24 hour news feeds our habit and keeps us at home away from working and doing what we must do. Double page spreads of huge waves ‘battering’ the coast will surface in tomorrows newspapers, to further serialize the drama. The ‘storm’ may be in its full power, but Britain remains on this side of the Atlantic, so it’s not the worst…yet.

Why news at breakfast really does matter

At the time it was a pioneering moment. Broadcasting news and having journalists report on national, international and regional stories. It is difficult to think of waking up without some programme providing an early morning dose of headlines and information. There was a time, however. Today, the market for breakfast television is greater than ever before. The consequence is a decline in viewers of early morning television journalism.

Our busier way of life, the increasing demands of work and economy, and demanding childcare has confidently led to dwindle in the number of viewers who want news at breakfast. It’s very much a subconscious thing. Automatically, many households head straight to a news programme. Ensuring children and pets are fed and cleaned, getting to school and work on time are the tasks that become mundane and routine. Journalism and news are simply background to the lifestyle that so many lead and it can become very easy to either avoid news or simply take these programmes for granted.

In its greater and younger life, ITV’s breakfast offering, GMTV, managed to inform, entertain and connect with the millions of loyal viewers who regularly watched the award winning programme. Today, it’s successor, Daybreak, averages less than one million viewers a day. A sharp decline. Even before ITV took full control of its breakfast content, journalism on GMTV wasn’t groundbreaking. Reports were short, often gimmicky and a bit ‘cheap’ compared to other options. However, as it attracted an overwhelmingly large audience, politicians ensured GMTV was a regular for any interview. Although not having a strong journalistic background, the connection and rapport between presenters and audience paved the way for interviews that were truthful, honest and audience orientated. Perhaps tacky around the edges, but the balances between news, celebrity and real lives made GMTV somewhat the must watch breakfast programme. An understated and less pompous approach to journalism which clearly is what the audience wanted.

The demise of GMTV was partly down to its own making. Accusations of fraud and misleading viewers in competitions led many of its loyal and regular viewers away. The demise of the programme had begun. At the same time, the BBC’s traditional hard news approach to early morning viewers was about to change.

BBC Breakfast

BBC Breakfast

When it comes to searching for reliable news, business and regional news updates, viewers seem to intuitively choose the BBC over other rivals. It was the ‘beeb’ who began the breakfast phenomena in 1983. Soon, the format changed to desk based news, attracting a substantially smaller audience than the more family orientated GMTV. It could, therefore, be presumed that even back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, perceptions of news and hard journalism were ‘boring’, similar to some modern day ideas. Today, the BBC’s Breakfast programme captures little over 1.5 million viewers compared to ITV’s Daybreak 700,000. The programme is now completely sofa based and mixes viewer interest with the news and sport headlines until 8:30 when the focus shifts to entertainment and culture.

To me, there is something universally exciting, exhilarating and attractive about waking up to an unexpected breaking news story. Certainly the moment I heard about Michael Jackson’s death via BBC News or the rescue of the Chilean miners are amongst the stories that represent the absolute need for news at breakfast time. However, as numbers for programmes such as Breakfast, Daybreak and Sunrise all fall short of past lives, the facts show a change in the way we, as viewers, receive our news.

Viewer habits have certainly changed considerably. Gone are days of national newspapers over cereal, in are the days of watching virtually anything on TV. Given the increased demand of work and childcare, there is much criticism of television journalism in the early morning. Clearly BBC Breakfast proves to be a successful formula of news and entertainment (with a mix of light hearted features) yet there was much scepticism when the programme left London bound for Media City, Salford. Some suggest the quality of the programme has deteriorated and it is true that there is less ‘newsier’ content than in years gone by, however the overall feel of the morning programme feels identical, if not better and stronger, than when it was homed in the Capital. The idea in bringing in less news and more features represents viewer interests. It may feel like endless padding to fill the programme with content, but it is a more friendly approach to journalism that viewers want. The One Show represents a popular magazine programme with some journalistic content; it seems many of our breakfast providers want to follow this route in hope of attracting a large audience, at times forgetting the real reason behind their own early morning programmes.

For many, the news represents a dark outlook, at times bias, and at others completely downbeat. Yet if we consider it a bit more, the news often shapes the day that will follow. Morning conversations, in work or elsewhere, relate to what the days news agenda is built of. The news, of which we all have opinion, not only builds our days, but often shape our lives. Certainly for those like me, aspiring journalists, breakfast news programmes provide a strong base for experienced and new talent.

As rumours circulate that ITV could be about to once again revamp its breakfast output, it’s hard not to think about the alternatives to core news and journalism at such an early hour. The slide in ratings is more to do with a tarnished brand rather than the formula and content of the programme; ITV has become the provider of light entertainment held together with a small amount of news. Perhaps that is the problem. For those who don’t choose to watch the comedy offering on Channel 4, or digital news on Sky, there is not much else to offer. ITV’s timeslots can often change and are regularly governed by advert breaks, breaking traditions of regular news in a regular timeslot. Unfortunately, the commercial broadcaster doesn’t offer enough journalism to keep an audience interested. Regional news is less than three minutes an hour and the programme has often been dubbed ‘gossip-break’ given the lack of real, credible news. At breakfast, the BBC still remains the strong and professional broadcaster, despite criticisms of bias and unfair representations.

That’s not to say ITV should give up. Its output on the national ITV News is, at times, more balanced and in depth than the BBC. Investigative journalism has governed the ITN newsroom in recent months and the quality of journalists, presenters and editors has grown significantly. A programme with the content of what ITV has built up would be a real rival to other news providers.

Breakfast television is more a psychology subject. Questions need to be asked about what viewers expect, how long viewers can stay interested and what type of journalism they are after. To simply give up on breakfast journalism would be a tragedy. Yes, early morning news is not made up of the brand leading investigative reports, but why should it be. At that time of the morning, a summarising description of what is happening around the globe is enough. A viewer can feed on what they have learnt for an entire day.

Look at radio journalism and its increased popularity. The Chris Evans Breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 attracts more viewers than both BBC1 and ITV combined. His show, a mixture of magazine, interest and interviews, strikes a core balance amongst those early morning drivers. Further evidence of a shift in lifestyle. News summaries every half hour are just the right length for the average listener and the Evans approach of news commentary certainly gains a laugh in places and applause in others. It is perhaps a clear perception that radio journalism is more popular, if not more accessible, than television journalism. Chris Evans’ lighter approach to the news must be a ratings winner, again showing that viewers do want a mixture in their media content.

Subconsciously, news has become a part of day-to-day life. Notifications on social media and mobile telephones alert the breaking headlines. Conversation on national and local radio often integrate news and information. In the 21st century, it is difficult to escape from any kind of journalism.

Whatever a viewer thinks about breakfast journalism and whether news should be shown or heard over tea and toast, for many the first connection of the day is the news at breakfast. It is a live broadcast in the sense that the news breaks as the programme airs. The energy and trepidation of the journalists that bring the headlines is all too apparent. As many strive to strike the right balance, for many the news at any time of the day is a must avoid. Yet, consider how empty a day would feel without a burst of information on world events. Breakfast journalism matters.

Why people avoid news

In one of my recent posts, I stated that everyone should take an interest in the news. But what about those who are adamant that the news should not be consumed. Is there good reason to not follow the news? Will our lives benefit substantially by switching off all correspondence to news? There is a strong argument. It starts with Apathy.

Apathy can be defined as the absence of interest or passion in something considered to be interesting or moving. To me, the news is fascinating. No two days are the same and, as events unfold, it can certainly be gripping. It can’t be denied that the news is moving. Reports on UK poverty, overseas famine and victims of global disasters all create a string of emotional reports. Only the most heartless person would not find the images of starving Ethiopian children moving. There are always beliefs that people have. It’s possible that not having an interest in news stems further than an individual’s choice.

GROWING UP can possibly be a reason why somebody might not take note of newspapers and news programmes. I did a simple internet search to find out about children being exposed to news and presented to me were pages of advice as to how parents can shield their children from the “violence” of global events. All very well, but as an article from Children Now (http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/learn/twk_news) explains, all children will be exposed to such events through their peers, regardless how hard parents try and prevent it. Homework might involve an issue brought up in recent news; Comedy programmes might contain references to news events; Subconsciously listening to the news in the car. All are very subtle intakes. Exposure to sex, violence and crime are all to familiar on a video game and so can be very enticing for a young and inquisitive audience. There does have to be a balance of news and reality. For instance a terrorist attack in Pakistan is not reflective of society in the UK. Sometimes if balances aren’t met and children are exposed to hard news at an unsuitable ages, without explanation or appropriate guidance, then fears are likely to grow and the news will become more a source of terror and fear rather than a source of good journalism and factual references to global events.

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CONTENT of news bulletins also explain a great deal about why people choose to avoid. In 2002, research by the Independent Television Commission and Broadcasting Standards Council found that only 43 percent of TV news viewers felt all areas of society were fairly represented. The majority felt the news contained too much politics. So why would we want to watch a news programme that only focuses on celebrities and politicians? As the study shows, viewers and readers want news that matters not about celebrity culture and lifestyles. A fairly recent comment by a TV reality star stated “people my age don’t watch the news because it’s boring”. Not wanting to be stereotypical, but it was a member of “The Only Way is Essex” cast. There may be a point in the statement. The interests of a teenage and young adult audience differ from that of a middle age audience. Politics and financial news just does not create an interest or passion because it is deemed “boring”, despite the fact every decision made will in turn affect every individual. It’s tabloid news from the red-top newspapers that at the very least inspire a generation to pick up a newspaper. Although news about The X Factor and celebrity lifestyles aren’t forms of real journalism, there is a market. You could argue that such celebrity and tabloid focussed “journalism” are encouraging a generation to turn away from news that really matters and more tabloid news than ever is turning modest readers and viewers away for good.

DEPRESSING is a word that often describes the news. Everyday, newspapers and news broadcasts announce a death toll, somewhere somebody has been killed, a terrorist attack has left many injured and many more. Death, disaster and destruction are what news providers focus on because it is likely to gain most interest. The current crisis in Syria has painted a very depressing picture. In a tale similar to good vs evil, the events of the Middle East uprising unravel like a gripping novel. It is very sad that the plight of the people who are fighting for their cause and against a violent regime has to played out in front of millions of viewers. Now, consider if the conflict was not reported about. It is a very disheartening scene, as a viewer we see the victims speak to the camera about what they are going through. Journalists and news networks provide a base for victims around the globe to tell their story. If conflicts and wars went unreported, could we go on with our daily lives knowing that such deadly occurrences were taking place? I think not. Yes, the news is often full of dismal content, but the news allows others to tell their often harrowing and distressing stories to the rest of the world. For what comes of it, coverage, support and help, that can only be a good thing.

IRRELEVANT news is one way that interest or passion can be absent when considering news. Out of thousands of stories that are consumed have any had a real impact? Has any news story led to major lifestyle changes? Probably not, but some reports highlight the lengths other people will go to in order to help others. The death of a woman running the London marathon and a woman swimming the English channel resulted in a huge surge of donations to the charities involved and so broadcasting the story of such tragic events can lead viewers and readers to make positive decisions. On a different note, questions can be raised about the relevance of national and international news. It is often regarded that local news creates more of an interest than national news because readers and viewers can relate on a local scale. I won’t be interested if there’s been a robbery in a street in New York but I will be very interested if there’s been an incident in my town. It really is a shame that local news is under the threat of cuts. Regional print journalism is in decline, advertising costs increasing and so are the prices of newspapers. Whilst regional TV news programmes are things of beauty, viewing figures aren’t groundbreaking. Whilst some claim national programmes are bias and London-centric, even the most respected regional news programmes are accused of favouritism towards certain towns and cities. Divisions and conflicts will always appear when it comes to relevant news and sometimes that is what drives audiences away.

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ADDICTION to news can become a serious habit. Studies show that watching too much news and current affairs can lead to depression. There is no doubt that the news is more downbeat than upbeat and it has been noted that exposure to violence and scandal can leave viewers and readers becoming anxious and more negative. It’s not a reason to completely ignore news. Our brains work in a way that we always want new information and an unfolding dramatic news story can perhaps diverse an ordinary day. I wouldn’t say it was bad to be a so called “news junkie”. Knowledge of what’s happening around the world is what makes everyday conversation. Without the exposure and information people do appear quite pitiful. 24 hour news channels, mobile phone applications, Twitter and the entire internet can all feed a habit of reading, watching or listening to news. You could say it’s like a drug.

There are of course enormous lists as to why people don’t watch or read the news. Any reason from it being on too long to being on at the wrong time can be used to explain why some avoid the news. The news can MISLEAD when it comes to some manipulating of comments; PRACTISES can be criticised suggesting news gatherers are IMMORAL; Suggest you spend an hour a day watching the news and half an hour reading a newspaper. Is this a WASTE OF TIME?; Busier lifestyles simply mean people CAN’T TAKE INTEREST because they are working or otherwise occupied.

The old phrase NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS can be related to this topic quite well. A tiny bit of research led me to find that those who have less exposure to news are genuinely happier. That is good news. They might very well be happier because they have more spare time and take little note of scandal, violence, sex, corruption and affairs that dominate the world stage. I’d certainly feel strange not knowing that millions of people are suffering, not knowing what political decisions are being made. I really do think it would be harder in life to avoid news than to consume it.

I will always have an interest and passion for news and current affairs. I admire outstanding broadcast and written journalism. Whilst I absolutely despise the practises exposed in the Leveson Inquiry, there is a need for good, investigative journalism. I disagree with ideas that children should be shielded away from news. There are plenty of outstanding news programmes, including Newsround and Newsbeat which deliver news in a specific way for their target audiences. Unfortunately, it is death, drama and destruction which make the headlines because it catches the public eye and entices readers and viewers.

I will always believe in introducing young people to the news. As I said in my last piece, the news is out there for everybody to grasp. Unreported worlds can have their stories told and government scandals and corruption can be uncovered through the best investigative journalism. To hide away from the news is to hide away from the plight and affairs that dominate around the globe.

Everyone should take an interest in news

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It’s actually quite frightening when I hear young people, similar age to myself, say they take no interest in the news. They don’t watch, read or listen to any bulletins. Many use the excuse that the news is “boring” and much of the content is “depressing” and “negative”. It really is a shame that people don’t want to take note of events happening around the world – the plight of famine in third world countries, alleged election corruption and natural disasters. All events have an effect on the viewer or reader. Whether it be just a simple opinion or an action you take to help. The news is for everyone and everyone must take a grasp.

I have always enjoyed writing, in particular factual writing. Ever since around mid-high school (around 2007) I affirmed my desire to be a journalist. Watching the “grown up” news had me hooked from the start and I began to develop my interests in news and current affairs. At the time, many of my peer group would simply shrug off anything related to the news. Even by the end of my school life, some of my group still didn’t watch or read any news. I always remember a few people, at the age of sixteen baring in mind, stating they didn’t know there was a war in Iraq or Afghanistan. By this time the Iraq war had already started and ended. These people didn’t even know about it. All to their own, it’s a personal choice whether you watch a news programme or read a newspaper, but it was really quite fearsome that some sixteen year olds had no idea about the casualties and what the war had entailed.

I suppose my love of news and current affairs goes back to before school. Quite literally. My Dad would come off his night shift at 6am and without fail would always bring in a newspaper. He still does. Whilst waiting for the rest of the family, I would take a read of the paper. If there was no newspaper, I always remember BBC Breakfast being on the TV screens. And so I was in. I would take into school and college a barrel of conversation. Discussions would take place in our lessons about some of the news agenda. Many would sit silently, wide-eyed and with a blank expression, to say they had no idea what was going on. Some just didn’t care at all. Sad. The news formed much more than an interest and passion. It developed me socially and almost everyone was aware (by the end) that I wanted to be a journalist because of my long-standing curiosity of world events.

I have always seen the news as a social tool, possibly more than a factual provider of events. I know of families who prevent their children and teenagers from watching television news because of the content. It’s too “negative” and “inappropriate”, apparently. I’m afraid that’s reality. Keeping young people in particular in some sort of bubble world will do more harm than good. Inevitably there will be discussions about news events and if they can’t answer then they look stupid. I’ve seen it happen. And more so, keeping individuals in a bubble world, away from the harsh reality of world affairs, is so very damaging and detrimental to a persons view of the world. Historic images of the starving Ethiopians, the September 11th terrorist attacks and subsequent war on terror are difficult to comprehend. Emotions run high – a mixture of anger, upset and loss all depict these images. However, if they are not broadcast, consider the impact. The need to help children in poverty is vital and without the news to display the efforts of charities and the plight of the victims is degrading to all. I am a strong believer that everybody, how old or young they may be, must be exposed to the reality of global affairs.

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There is so much content for any age group. I always remember watching Newsround. Essentially, a news programme for children. Some of the harsh realities toned down and a duty to provide realistic and tackling issues to their younger viewer. Radio 1’s Newsbeat provides a programme select to it’s audiences of teenagers and young adults. Able to broadcast the news in a non-patronising format, yet a way that tackles the audience who may not be as interested. The likes of the ITV national and regional news are for the average mainstream viewer, varying of all ages. The content is selected for its mainstream appeal, often the ‘big’ stories of the day. That in comparison to Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme have a selected, high end viewer/listener and so content is selective and often more specialist. Online and news providers are at their most popular. Millions of users log on to the likes of the BBC News and ITV News websites each day, whilst Twitter and mobile phone apps have become a real force for providing news. The news is more reachable than ever.

It’s not just national broadcasts that are important. Regional news is vital. Whether it be on local radio, a local newspaper or a regional news programme, the necessity for local news services are as high as ever. Take the North West for instance, my region. Granada Reports and North West Tonight are both award winning programmes with award winning presenters and reporters. Not only do the programmes tackle hard hitting news – the future of the NHS, the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy and the Hillsborough Disaster to name a few – the programmes also form a base for local residents and organisations to promote their own hardship. Local newspapers including the Liverpool Echo, Warrington Guardian, Manchester Evening News and so forth all dedicate space to tell readers about events local and relevant to them. Work at local charities and appeals for help are made through various regional medium. And that is what is so special about local news. It brings about a real sense of community and satisfaction when reading, listening or watching. Something everyone can take a leaf out of.

There will always be people who claim they don’t watch news programmes because they are “depressing” amongst other terminology. Whilst it is refreshing when more upbeat news such as Olympic and sports success and the royal family events dominate the agenda, I always remember being told a good analogy about news. Thousands of planes land at airports around the world every hour – It’s only the plane that crashes that the news will cover. It is perhaps a rather gloomy perspective but that is what viewers are interested in. Dramatic and extraordinary events. That’s what news is all about.

I believe it’s rather sad when someone says they don’t watch, read or listen to the news. It makes me think they are perhaps out of touch with the real world, real events and real world scenarios. The news impacts on every person. Political decisions touch everybody’s life. A Royal wedding brings millions of people together. Poverty ridden countries bring emotions to all who watch. Regardless of what someone’s interests are and whether they prefer politics to technology, the news is out there for everyone of all interests to take hold of. More than anything it is a duty to take an interest in news and current affairs.