It’s Sunday and I am reading about the Levenson enquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media.
I am struck by 2 comments in the stories in the Sunday Times. The first relates to “long lenses” and the second relates to phone calls made to a witness asking what trees were being planted in some-ones grounds because of a related story on non-native planting in Scotland.
Well I’m no celebrity nor have I suffered thank goodness from any press intrusion in my life but these comments struck a chord.
Last year, and again recently, our sitting out area in our woodland garden was photographed using long lenses. Our house was also photographed and our woodland, which we own. Everyone has a right to a photograph and I have never complained or questioned anyone taking photographs of our water tower or our grounds. The tower is a land mark and the associated grounds are the back drop to Ironmills park. But when long lenses are used to try to sway judgement of a planning application, even when the house had permission, well that’s intrusion. Not by the press but by the public. Members of the public went on to lobby Midlothian Council elected representatives and some were swayed with the evidence put before them - even with the evidence provided by using "long lenses". That was shameful. Especially when elected representatives chose not to visit nor to check facts and detail.
What about non-native planting? I’m acutely aware of this issue having been accused of so called non-native planting by some who know a lot less than I do as to what’s native and, more importantly, what’s acceptable and why in the woodland. It’s partly why I have this blog. I am an avid reader of all things “woodland” and my understanding of what is native and how to manage woodlands is my passion.
But back to the enquiry and the fact it struck a chord with me this morning. I might be no celebrity but I guess Gerry has made the press with his Masterchef achievement. This must be why a member of the public and ex justice of the peace, Mrs Kate Duthie, thought she had a right to ask that Gerry be “researched on the internet” during our appeal process. I still can’t quite get over that request, made to the Reporter during his site visit. At least it was made in our face so we know what was being said. Behind the scenes – god only knows what was said. In this country if you want to report someone to an authority then there is a whistle blowers charter that allows that report to be heard and judged. No matter the outcome. But if you cry wolf and your complaint is not upheld because you have invented a story to augment your own beliefs and with no factual evidence, why are you not held accountable for wrongful activities?
I think this is where the Levenson enquiry should go. I appreciate the press for their forensic auditing of mal-practice and wouldn’t want to see that practice curtailed by legal process arising from the actions of less scrupulous reporters. Let’s just make the perpetrators of less scrupulous activities responsible for their actions and bring the weight of the legal process on their shoulders. Then they might think twice before using long lenses and reporting irrelevant and wrong information in the interests of a story; twisted and adjusted just to sell newspapers, or to attempt to mark the character of any individual.
On a happy note - Its Movember and I found this picture of Gerry with his contribution in years gone by. This was Long Island in 2004, the start of our year out trip when we cooked our way all over the USA.