Journalism and democracy

One thing that marks out people with true leadership qualities from the rest of us is the ability to see the big picture.

When I left my glen last Thursday for England’s North East to attend the NUJ’s Delegate Meeting in Newcastle I had little time to take in Charles Green’s vision for his new club.

It was contained in what was, reportedly, an accurate minute of a meeting he had with supporters.

I have not seen a club statement repudiating the contents so I must assume their veracity at this point.

Mr Green’s aspirations for the club he is the CEO of are truly impressive.

He envisages that the Sevco chaps will be in the last eight of the Champions league on a regular basis and in the semi-finals “in a good year”.

Clearly this is a long term plan.

Even with all of the available assistance to Sevco from the folks on the 6th floor at Hampden in getting into the top flight of Scottish football UEFA will not allow Sevco into their competition for three years.

If Sevco are ready to become one the big boys in the Champions League in only three years especially from where they are now then this will be truly historic.

While I was at the NUJ DM Sevco’s chaps were defeated by Stirling Albion, a club at the foot of Division three they were officially the worst team in Scottish football.

To go from being beaten by the bottom team in Scotland to locking horns with the big boys in the latter stages of the Champions League shows that Mr Green has such magisterial vision, whereas mine is so miserly.

I could not help and think how the media in Scotland would have approached the exact same words had they come from Peter Lawwell’s mouth.

Celtic are currently in the Champions League Group Stages and have been undefeated in European competition this year.

However, if the Celtic CEO said that he saw Celtic as a regular contender in the latter stages of Europe’s premier competition and in “the semi-finals on a good year” I can only imagine the hay that would be made by the hacks with that statement.

It would be treated as risible.

Perhaps Mr Green’s statement was so eviscerated.

If it was then I missed that reportage.

My focus over the week end was on weightier matters.

The main event for me was to speak to a late motion at DM on the threats that are regularly made by the Ibrox klan to journalists working on Scottish football.

The motion made specific mention of me and the recent publication of my book on the death of Rangers as a catalyst for an upsurge in such threats.

One colleague came to DM armed with a list that he had compiled of journalists who had been named on social media and then threatened by the dignified denizens of the blue half of Glasgow.

The list was eclectic; broadcast, print, freelance and staffers.

He counted out the names to me, twenty five in all including the NUJ President Donnacha DeLong.

The pattern was well established.

A  journalist would somehow transgress against the klan and then be named on social media.

Soon after that the online threats and smears would start.

There would also be threatening calls made to places of work.

He was on this list himself.

Despite getting death threats he said he would not stop doing his job.


Although concerns about boycotts and a drop in circulation are a legitimate concern for editors the personal safety of journalists should be a matter for all of us and not just those who own and control the media.

Even in the age of social media society relies on journalism to gather and sift information and present it to the public.

Indeed with the blizzard of digital data cascading down into your smart phone from all angles people need good journalism now more than ever.

Unless people are open to hearing the truth on a story then they have no legitimate cause for complaint when they suddenly realise that they are badly informed.

I started the week end by attending a lecture given by former British Ambassador Craig Murray.

Quietly spoken to the point of diffidence, this is a man of genuine courage.

As the UK’s chap in Uzbekistan he decided that it wasn’t in his job description to attend cocktail parties with the local capo Islam Karimov.

The top boy in Tashkent had a penchant for boiling his opponents alive while Britain looked the other way.

Not surprisingly Karimov wasn’t too keen on a free press.

Murray resigned from the Foreign Office and became the classic whistle blower.

Unable to get the mainstream media to take his material he started blogging; his site was attacked and taken down on several occasions.

Over dinner he related tales to me from his time inside the British state that I considered to be of genuine public interest.

What we discussed were matters of global significance and a solar system away from that which exercises Planet Fitba.

However, the principle is the same and it is that journalism has a key role in any democratic society.

If Scotland allows the Ibrox klan to impose their will on the Fourth Estate then  it is a country that is incubating a major problem for the future.

From my vantage point on Ireland’s west coast I once more see someone in a position of power at Edmiston Drive escaping proper scrutiny by the Scottish media.

My own work on the life and death of Rangers Football Club has convinced me that the Ibrox klan are an evidence resistant sub-culture.

They do not wish to be informed of anything that upsets their fascist world view.

Subsequently, they are key players in their own lack of awareness.

I told my NUJ colleagues in Newcastle that, in my opinion, an attack on any journalist is an attack on journalism and ipso facto an attack on democracy.

The motion condemning these threats made by the Ibrox klan was passed unanimously.

I am proud of my union.

They’ve got the vision thing.

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