Angus MacPhail: why we need a fair press

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Journalism is one of the most important professions in maintaining a society with openness and accountability, and the press industry is, of course, vital for these journalists to hold a strong platform from which to project their message.

As important and indeed noble as I see the profession as a whole, and as much as I have a huge amount of respect for those working in this harsh and relentlessly difficult area, dealing with them is sometimes a lucky dip of risking reputation and message.

In the past few weeks, with the Usher Hall gig in Edinburgh approaching, and with the song release next weekend, Skipinnish has had a fair amount of coverage in the mainstream media. The Press and Journal, The Herald, The Sun, STV and even Scottish Field have given us exposure in print, online or on television.

There is no doubt that getting this type of coverage is a good thing for a band or indeed any business or charity that relies on support from the public, but once you engage it can be a case of ‘hope for the best’ and don’t be too surprised if what gets printed is very different from what was said.

Last week we were waiting in Hamburg Airport for a flight back home after a gig in Germany when we saw the online version of a feature in Sunday’s Scottish Sun about us.

Now, I am not complaining about getting the coverage, which was very positive, and I mean no disrespect to the journalist or feature writer, but reading the headline and the quotes, it would suggest strongly that we are completely delusional and were suffering from ‘up-one’s-own-tòn’ syndrome!

Cases like this, where the people who are actually involved in a story or feature find the content divorced from reality, is increasingly common.

The pressures on the printed press in this world of instant online media are huge and that pressure is no doubt passed on to the writers and journalists, so it is easy to see a logical reason as to why content is so often sensationalised, augmented and doctored to make it as attractive to as wide an audience base as possible, too often at the expense of accuracy.

Although I was cringing when reading the Sun piece, I have a fairly thick skin regarding what is written about me and generally am just grateful they wrote anything at all. However, when the subject matter is more sensitive and involving other people, what is written becomes a genuine worry.

This week we sent out press releases along with the new recording of Wishing Well (anniversary release), as featured in last week’s article, to radio stations and newspapers.

This contradictory Catch-22 situation is at the forefront of my mind: we need publicity to get the single selling to make money for the Team Eilidh charity but, by engaging with the media, there is the risk that coverage will not be in keeping with what we think is appropriate in these poignant circumstances.

This risk was one of the main reasons why I didn’t want the background of the song known last year when we recorded the original.

I am optimistically putting my faith in those who may give it coverage and hope that it is handled with sensitivity to the tragic origins of the song.

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