The Hot Seat

I was sat in John Darvall’s ‘hot-seat’ yesterday morning taking calls from Bristol citizens. I see this as a regular healthy exercise to engage direct with Bristol residents. During the hour, John and I discussed a ‘job swap’ where I helped to host his show for one day and John would come and work with me for a day. This is a great idea and an opportunity for John, as a journalist who hosts politicians and discusses political issues to experience politics at first hand; and for me to experience the different focus of John’s job, hosting a daily phone-in and discussion programme. I also reckon I could play better music.

Politics and media are inter-twined and have essential responsibilities to each other. Politicians should be open and prepared to be held to account and journalists have a duty to openly question political decisions and find truth. However, journalists have more responsibilities than are often considered, particularly in recent years as news coverage has moved away from detail and often towards the sensationalist. There needs to be an understanding they are part of the elite, they can influence thinking and can energise often deliberately negative debate in the name of creating the conflict that is entertainment. The ever present ‘vox pop’ of radio and TV can bias coverage unless carefully managed. The minority voice can often be displayed as the only voice because it’s easy to find and more difficult to seek out majority, quieter views.

This direction of travel for media outlets, of sensationalism and opposition voices is too simple and failing all of us. Just as politicians have to work hard to consider all views, varying options and sometimes make the difficult choices, so journalists and editors should be held to the same standard – the necessity to tell the truth in an unbiased way that shows the arguments in detail and through a prism that reflects the complexities of life and society – even if it costs an easy headline or an internet click or two.

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