On Sunday night as a lazily scrolled through my Twitter feed, I saw something that made my already dwindling faith in British journalistic integrity hit an all time low. The cause of this diminishment was none other the the front page of Monday’s issue of The Sun, which featured a photo of Jeremy Corbyn in front of the cenotaph under the headline “NOD IN MY NAME” in reference to him supposedly not bowing at Sunday’s memorial service.
I’d always held The Sun in pretty low regard given their history of sensationalist nonsense, but this made my blood boil. While I disagree with Mr. Corbyn on certain defence issues, most notably Trident, the repeated attempts by the right-wing media to portray him as anti-British is shameful. The Sun of course decided to omit the fact that Mr. Corbyn was the only party leader who remained after the ceremony to meet war veterans, while other politicians ran off to the warmth of their VIP reception. They also failed to mention that Jez went on to attend a second memorial service that day in his North London constituency. I guess if you work at The Sun, some facts are more important than others.
Journalists are supposed to report the truth, but somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that. This problem is endemic in our society; nobody trusts journalists anymore. The fact that The Sun feels that it has the moral authority to criticise anybody’s conduct at a memorial service after they hacked the phones of dead soldiers is shocking.
So, how do we as Labour members, activists and supporters proceed? Tony Blair was famous for winning over the Murdoch press pre-1997, an act that is often seen as key to him gaining power. Should Jeremy Corbyn do the same? In short, no. For starters, the Sun are a lot less powerful than they were 20 years ago. Since 1997, their circulation has halved from around four million to under two million and is declining every year.
In addition, our new leadership team seem prepared to take on press barons. Tom Watson, no stranger to being hounded by journalists, published a exposé on corruption in News Corporation a few years ago. The Sun’s response was to brand him a “socialist zealot” and to remove the book from the Sunday Times bestseller list, despite the fact that the book made it to number 1.
This bodes well for Labour and presents us with a real opportunity: we can, and must, stand up to the Murdoch empire and other false news agencies. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the way one of the UK’s most powerful industries operates and we can’t squander it. We’ve already made excellent steps on this front in regards to press conduct: the Leveson Inquiry put a stop to the practice of phone hacking, but we still have a long way to go. It shouldn’t be a radical suggestion that journalists should be obliged to tell the truth.