Late Call – Editors Blog
My first day back in the Bella editorial chair – while Mike temporarily swans off into the sunset – was a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not so much the physical graft (what physical graft?) nor the quantity of material you have to edit and publish on the website that takes its toll, its having to fill your headspace with the minutae of everyday politicking.
You have to prioritise, read like a demon, and continually weigh up what is worth commenting on. It’s hard work and needs to be done full-time if you’re publishing daily and want to counter the Unionist press with their vast budgets and army of paid employees. In my opinion the best thing that’s happened to sites like Bella and Wings was the successful crowd-funding appeals. The wages of the editors are now paid and you can see the difference in professionalism and quality.
But the pressure is still intense, given what these sites are up against. Anyone who has ever edited any kind of daily political or news publication will know what I mean. You have to be on the ball, be aware of everything from the latest fracking reports to the news that Prince Harry is having his pockets filled with gold for his 30th birthday. You also have to filter out the background noise which makes up so much of the so-called news: such as the story of the woman who gave birth today outside Primark in Birmingham. (Rumours the child has already got a job in one of their Chinese factories is not proven).
Then there’s all things Referendum. I’m not a cheery morning person by nature and I’ve hardly digested my honey-covered porridge when a BBC Scotland presenter got my hackles up , haranguing Angus Robertson MP – they all want to be Paxman Mini-Mes these days – with claims that Trident is necessary because there is a “real threat”. He cites the situation in Russia/Ukraine. Aye, right.
BBC news reporting did not challenge any of the findings of the Trident Commission report today. They simply repeated the official lines and wheeled in a few dissenting voices. For instance, the Trident report stated that Trident would only be used against countries who already have nuclear weapons. Wow. Since there are only 8 other nuclear states in the world at present that narrows down its practical “usefulness” considerably. Since USA, France & Israel are supposedly on “our” side then these monsters on the Clyde, at a cost of £100bn, are there to defend us from just FIVE countries: Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The sheer insanity of this is self-evident when it is analysed but our state broadcaster lets these irksome details slide past. Their job, as the BBC editors see it, is to present, unquestioningly, every utterance from Westminster and Downing Street with the utmost gravitas.
I was considering whether to write something on this when a YouGov poll – complete with a beaming Curtice – had No at 18 points ahead of Yes. I’m distracted by this and go off on a tangent. If this poll was consistently echoed across other polls it would be worrying at this stage. Whether this marks a trend or an outlier remains to be seen. One thing is unavoidable though: Yes is behind in the polls and to draw ahead Yes needs to step up a few gears.
Each day also brings a fresh batch of alleged cybernat abuse. Celebs For No are churned out, usually aggrieved on other people’s behalfs. Rory Bremner is the latest. It is tedious and mostly untrue. But No has chosen to concentrate on this. On the one hand this is part of No’s “smear those you don’t want to debate with” approach. But on the other hand it gets Yes bogged down in trying to respond to the latest allegations. Therein lies a bigger problem for Yes.
It would appear to me that Yes spends WAY too much time reacting to whatever nonsense No conjures up on any given day. I doubt too if this is accidental. No is using the national media to frame the debate and that creates a tactical challenge. We have a choice. We can be reactive or proactive. The great thing about the grassroots Yes is that it is proactive in communities all across Scotland. This is what is winning hearts and minds.
It also begs the alternative question why so many Yes supporters spend so much time reacting to online drivel from No-bodies like John McTernan, Ian Smart, Lord Foulkes or Jim Murphy?
These Labour Unionists do not have the ear of anyone outside politics bar their own supper clubs. (I’ve Blocked most of them on Twitter and would highly recommend it.) Their main reason for being online is to wind Yes folk up and drag us down to their level. So why give them the satisfaction? Why engage or bite? Why waste precious time and energy? They’re completely irrelevant to the dialogue needed with the people who really matter.
As I was saying, there is a great swirl of background noise in politics. Editors need to have finely tuned news filters. Readers and activists do too. I’m enjoying this stint back in the editorial chair. But I won’t be changing the office locks when Mike is away.
(This is the first in a series of late night editorial blog posts.)