I’ve made this point before; journalism is perhaps unique as a career where you can expect to be openly, personally abused simply for reporting what others have said. And as public figures, perhaps we should accept that strong differences of opinion are part and parcel of the job.
It’s even harder when you’re part of an organisation which is publicly funded. So perhaps it’s no surprise that a petition to sack the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, has attracted so much attention – possibly for all the wrong reasons.
It was started amid allegations that she was regularly showing bias against the Labour Party and in particular Jeremy Corbyn. But the petition site 38 Degrees removed it following reports of sexist abuse. This made some even more angry, suggesting that there were just a couple of abusive comments posted on the site, and that 38 Degrees itself was caving in under pressure from the establishment.
In fact, most of the abuse was on other social media platforms, notably Twitter. Many of the comments had nothing to do with bias, but were deeply personal. Several bloggers have since moaned that nobody took screen grabs of tweets which have subsequently been deleted – the charge now being that if you can’t see it, it never existed.
Frankly, I’m getting a little exasperated by the conspiracy theories. But I’m more concerned about the growing trend of my profession being easy pickings for the anonymous keyboard warriors, who think it’s perfectly acceptable to openly demand sackings, accompanied by filthy and nasty abuse.
Imagine if we were to apply the same principle to all publicly funded jobs. Should a council street cleaner, for example, be openly mocked if he misses a pile of rubbish outside a school, but meticulously polishes the flagstones at the Town Hall. Equally, ashould a police officer be disciplined for cautioning a “peaceful demonstrater” using language akin to incitement? Surely he’s suppressing free speech?
It goes wider than just journalism. I’m often baffled by the same online conspiracists who hate the “mainstream media” because we “don’t report the facts” – yet in the same breath praise, for example, Russia Today. Only this weekend someone on Twitter said he preferred the “independent” Planet Rock to anything that the “state sponsored” BBC Radio could offer him. Planet Rock is operated by the German multi media giant Bauer.
As for Laura, it’s at least pleasing to see that some in Labour are backing her; the Press Gazette reporting support from MPs Chuka Umunna and Jess Phillips.
But the hates will probably only moan that she’s not reported it.