Could there be a concerted conspiratorial effort on the part of Bradford’s local paper, The Telegraph & Argus, to keep George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, out of the news? Is the paper choosing to ignore stories which feature Galloway? Is it keeping him out of the news and, if so, why?
I’ve written a lot about George Galloway recently. I’ve challenged him to do more for Bradford, then took up his challenge to Google his name and reported what various media are reporting about him and Bradford. Perhaps his calling me ‘an internet stalker’ has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In my last post, I asked “In George Galloway’s Love-Hate relationship with the Media, is Bradford just a Gooseberry?” and put it that Mr Galloway is good at getting the media’s attention but far less good at getting Bradford’s problems and it successes in there too. Being quite the Marmite figure, I received many responses which spoke in the harshest terms about him and his efforts for Bradford, with many saying his standing for Bradford West was to the glory of Galloway rather than Bradfordians; and I received a good number of impassioned defences, stating that he is a great man, a great MP and great for Bradford. A few challenged me and my motives, asking if I’d looked at my previous MPs in such a way (I have not) and asking me what I’ve done for Bradford (which isn’t a lot, admittedly, but then I’m not an MP). With the latter people in mind, I protest that that I am treating Galloway differently, I am picking on him, but because I believe he has the potential to be great for this city: if his media profile is used and used well, he could be exactly what Bradford and Bradfordians need… and as for what I’m doing for Bradford, maybe, in my small way, I’m reminding George that he has a duty to Bradford and I’m keeping Bradford in the front of his mind. That is, I would be if he read my blog, so I am probably doing bugger all.
One person, a supporter of Mr Galloway, got in touch with me. He said he enjoyed my previous blog dealing with Mr Galloway, Bradford and the media, and asked if I knew that The Telegraph & Argus were ignoring Mr Galloway and Respect’s press releases. He was kind enough to speak to me at length about Mr Galloway, Respect and their relationship with the press. He sent me a list of press releases put out by Respect in Bradford, all of which are available on Mr Galloway’s website, and asked “How many of these have made it into the T&A? WHY!?” Well, here’s what I found.
I took the list sent to me and removed a few items which I didn’t feel fell into the category which I’d been looking at: namely, those not dealing with Mr Galloway and Bradford, with the interests of Bradford and Bradfordians playing a major role. These included the Viva Palestinia convoy and the Burma protest which, as foreign or foreign policy issues, I believe, do not affect a large number of Bradfordians and their everyday lives, although many will, of course, be concerned with them. Others included events and items domestic but which I felt, as a Bradford West voter, I wouldn’t expect or require anything in the local paper, such as condolences on the death of Marsha Singh and Mr Galloway’s congratulations to the Yorkshire winners of a Gold Medal at Chelsea Flower Show. In this, the report is subjective; however, I am a Bradford West voter so I can assume that most Bradfordians would agree with what I kept in, though some might question what I took out and why.
I searched the Telegraph and Argus website using the search term “George Galloway” (198 results) and sorted them in reverse chronological order, newest first. I then worked backwards through the list of Mr Galloway’s press releases and checked to see if a story appeared in the search over the following days. I did not check if the story had been picked up and reported but had excluded Mr Galloway or his comments.
- Mr Galloway issued 37 press releases which fit my criteria:
- Only 16 of these were picked up – 43%.
- Mr Galloway was given prominence (appearing in the headline, as instigator of the story, as one of the first few people quoted, or given a large quote) in 13 – 36%.
- In two, he was mentioned in the headline – 5%.
The big headline for me is that The Telegraph and Argus failed to write about more than half of the press releases sent to them by his office. I would not expect the paper to run with everything he has to say – it is not a Respect mouthpiece – but some of the statements would have been of interest to me as a Bradfordian and Bradford West voter. These included:
- Bradford West is the Country’s Unemployment Blackspot in which Mr Galloway discusses the figures from Bradford West compared to the rest of the country, and challenges the local and national government to do something.
- Rethink on Council Parking Strategy Needed in which Mr Galloway calls on the local council to consider the needs of city centre shoppers and businesses when deciding their strategy, citing that local businesses need to be supported in tempting shoppers away from out of town shopping centres.
- Bradford Voters are Dim, says Labour MP where Mr Galloway attacks Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman who said, “’This isn’t Bradford West, we have a much more balanced population in Huddersfield. We have a much more intelligent electorate. People in Huddersfield are better informed and more integrated in British parliamentary democracy,” insinuating that Bradford West voters are unintelligent, parochial, undemocratic and unBritish.
- Galloway Calls on HCA [Homes & Communities Agency] to Insist on Odeon Safeguards in which Mr Galloway questions various comments about the former Odeon building, Langtree developers and the proposed destruction – but members of BORG (Bradford Odeon Rescue Group) won’t be surprised that the T&A didn’t report that.
For each of these stories, I would have wanted and expected the T&A to have run stories, and in each, I would have wanted and expected my MP’s views, thoughts and comments to be included. When I was first told that there could be a conspiracy against George Galloway, I assumed that it was just Mr Galloway and his supporters blaming someone else – he certainly has a history of suggesting (rightly or wrongly) that the media works in nefarious ways when it comes to him. But with 57% of press releases being ignored, with a number on issues of great importance to Bradford and Bradford West, maybe he has a point.
If we do believe that Mr Galloway is a victim of a very selective strategy when it comes to stories involving or being instigated by him (and I’m not entirely convinced by my short study), then one must ask why. Why would a local paper consciously choose to not report stories brought to their attention by a local MP and one of the most prominent, outspoken MPs in the country? When I asked one of Mr Galloway’s supporters, he suggested that it was because Respect and Mr Galloway were not part of the old guard who had been working together for many years. He suggested that a network had grown up in Bradford wherein all the journalists knew all the political activists and they worked together, no-one upsetting the apple carts and back scratches abound. Respect, the new kids on the block, aren’t part of that network; indeed, he suggested, they are fighting against it, and are attempting to be the new broom which sweeps away any suggestion of corruption and under-the-counter dealings which, for too long, all the major parties and the local paper have been party to and complicit in. Added to this is Respect’s youth: as a new party with relatively low support and only active in a small number of areas, perhaps, he suggested, the paper is looking after those it’s sure will be there in years to come. Mr Galloway could be in Bradford for a very short time, and would the party hold its seat in Westminster and those in City Hall without its standard bearer? If not, we return to the status quo, and the older parties could be out to get those who supported Respect. The T&A, he suggested, assumed that Respect and Mr Galloway will be gone soon, so best to not piss of the other parties by giving them oxygen.
It sounds like a script from an admittedly poor drama, minus a couple of bodies and a massage parlour, but could it be true? Is the local paper locking out the local MP? If so, and there are questions to be asked, then we have a crisis in Bradford where the electorate is being disenfranchised by the local media, and where the local MP is being set up to fail. All big ifs…
All this being said, what does it say about Mr Galloway? His supporters are suggesting – nay, accusing – the media of actively working against him. This throws up two things. Firstly, Mr Galloway said that one of his main strengths for Bradford was his media profile. He said he could get Bradford, problems and successes, in the media spotlight. If he can’t get his message out through the local paper, what does that say about his strategy, his self-affirmed strength and his ability to get Bradford into the area and country’s psyche? Not a lot. Secondly, as I showed in my last post, Mr Galloway isn’t getting Bradford in the national media. His pre-election talk of Bradford’s Education, Unemployment and Regeneration seems to be just talk. He hasn’t got Bradford in the national spotlight, and he can’t blame the T&A for that.
So, I asked Mr Galloway’s office about what he’s doing for Bradford. The answer is: ‘A lot!’ The trouble is, he’s simply not getting his message out there, locally or nationally, so I’ve asked him about his strategy of using his media profile to the benefit of Bradford, if he thinks it’s working, and how he can improve it. More on this when I get a reply.
In the meantime, if you want to know what Mr Galloway’s up to, it seems like it’s about twice as much as appears in the T&A. Maybe I should ask them why so few of his press releases end up as stories – in fact, I think I will. So, more on this later too.