What Can We Believe

I spend the first hour or so of most days trawling through the online newspapers and trying to see exactly what is going on in the world. It can be a thankless task and is becoming ever more thankless due to the ineptitude and unethical bias of so many modern journalists.

As a schoolboy, it was my ambition to become a journalist and although that never did really happen, I spent eleven harrowing years as a freelance reporter for the Sunday Express, covering the farm invasions in Zimbabwe. I reported the facts as I saw them and like to feel that I helped the people of Britain understand exactly what was going on.

Mind you, I wrote a piece on Heather Bennet at one stage. Her husband Roy was still in prison and Heather graciously gave me her time, but I was forced to apologise to her afterward because what was published, bore little resemblance to what I had submitted. My News Editor – bless him – answered my complaint by saying that my words had been changed to convey ‘more atmosphere’ to the piece.

To me this attitude is not reporting as I understand it. All too often, modern journalists are painting a picture that just is not there, merely to satisfy the whim of an editor who sits in an office many miles from the scene.

Take the Victoria Falls for example. I ranted some time ago about a piece I had read in one of the tabloids which had it that the Falls were on the verge of drying up. This apparently came from a report by Alex Crawford, the South African correspondent for Sky News who went up to the Falls for a few days ‘fact finding.’

The ‘facts’ she described bore little resemblance to the truth I’m afraid. As one local resident put it, ‘I have heard some tall stories before but this one really takes the biscuit.’

The same resident reported that all the tourist operators on both sides of the Falls have lost bookings due to Crawford’s report and some lives have taken a definite turn for the worse. Apparently, Crawford spent time as a child in both Zambia and Zimbabwe but she shows little sympathy nowadays for those people her words so adversely affect.

Other locals in the area are equally displeased with Ms Crawford’s investigative work. Indeed some of them insist that she ‘told them what to say.’ She is also alleged to have twisted their words and left out large parts of the interviews they gave. She seems to have totally ignored those who tried to reason with her over what she was saying.

Of course, Crawford was intent on following the modern Holy Grail of climate change but to paint a totally false picture to justify an opinion is not good journalism. We are all worried about the effects of climate change. Yet climate has been changing constantly over many generations and between 1914 and 1924 the Zambezi suffered five of its lowest years on record and no comment was made about the climate creating the problem. It is quite normal to have a very high water level every ten years or so (2018, 2009, 1997, 1969, 1958) as much it is normal to have very low level at least once every decade, but this is never referred to by the modern journalist.

Alex Crawford, Stephen Sackur of the BBC and a few other scribblers clearly went out to the Falls with a set agenda and had every aim of sticking to this despite local people telling them that perhaps their story was out of kilter with reality.

Tourism is a very fragile industry and takes time to build up. It takes a single moment of violence to turn it upside down as happened in Kenya with the Nairobi bombings and the Ebola outbreak. Now this badly thought out, scantily researched idea that the Victoria Falls is somehow going to dry up will do the same.

Reporters on expense accounts sip their gin and tonics on the verandas of riverside hotels yet cannot seem to see that the Zambezi is one of the world’s great rivers and in absolutely no danger of drying up. It has run freely through all the climate changes the world has suffered and it will get through the next change just the same.

Yes there is a drought on at present and life is hard for many people, not least among them the tourist operators. Trying to run businesses and keep their workers in employment is a continuing struggle but they will all manage somehow. Reporters like Crawford, Sackur et al love to stir things up even when there is no story, but the damage they cause is frightening.

And the sad thing is that other news stations around the world have now followed up with their own stories about the Falls drying up, because so many modern journalists want to merely copy someone else’s story and keep the deception going, even if it is based on a few ill thought out, careless, inaccurate, hopelessly wide of the mark bits of reporting. These people should be ashamed of themselves but why let the truth get in the way of a good story? They have their premeditated script all based on some editor’s wishful fancy. They pocket their thirty pieces of silver then return to their comfortable, subsidised homes in the better areas of Johannesburg, Nairobi or Cape Town leaving behind and forgetting the people whose lives they have messed up.

A former newspaper editor and highly respected journalist is Charles Moore and after acting as Guest Editor on the BBC Today programme (they also had Greta Thunberg in that slot a couple of weeks ago) he argued that the Corporation’s news reporting reflected the prejudice of its managers. He had wanted to interview a climate change sceptic but could not secure a slot because the BBC objected to critical reporting on the subject.

Is it any wonder that more than two thirds of the public want the licence fee scrapped? Fair and unbiased reporting seems to have been abandoned for liberal left theories. It was revealed last month that Downing Street was drawing up plans to decriminalise failure to pay the fee – and had ordered Ministers to boycott the Today program in the wake of complaints about its General Election coverage.

Mr Moore said the BBC had become a secular church which has nationalised culture and needed to be ‘disestablished.’ He said: ‘What I am objecting to is preaching. The BBC tells us what we ought to think about things. So it tells us we shouldn’t support Brexit and we should accept climate change alarmism and kowtow to the doctrines of diversity.

‘The difficulty I have had trying to get all this stuff about climate change on to this programme, even though I am the guest editor… The obstacles came in every single time because of rulings and bureaucracy and the fact that Roger Harrabin, the environment editor, is so biased.’

Mr Moore added: ‘I think the BBC news coverage does reflect the politics and prejudice of the people who run it and this is wrong and this is what I’m objecting to. We are a divided country in terms of our news consumption because the BBC has an artificial privilege which it abuses to put forward particular views.’

I find it sad that a noble profession should be debased in order to reflect the mad ideas of a few modern editors. I can remember how after eleven years of reporting on farm invasions for the Sunday Express, the 2014 (I think) election was coming up and I told the News Editor – new at the time – that they needed me out in Zim.

He agreed but rather than stories about the election, he wanted me to dig out stories on Chelsea Davy, then being courted by the Royal Biscuit. I assured him that I was not that sort of reporter and that was the last occasion I worked for the ruddy paper.

Now I just find it all rather sad. Can I really believe what I read?

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