IN the course of my life, I’ve been in the fortunate position of being able to have a number of debates with Jimmy McGovern, a close family friend and someone I respect above all others.
The first took place in a Transit van on the way back to Merseyside from a weekend at Barnsley Workers’ College with the Scotland Road Writers’ Workshop, an organisation of which my late dad, Eddie, was a member.
It was 1984 and the miners’ strike was at its height. Being an idealistic eight year old from a fiercely political, even more fiercely left-wing family, I had all the answers. The assassination of Thatcher, Tebbitt, Ian McGregor and various other unmentionables was high on my agenda, as was a revolution that would usher in a socialist state run by the kind of people we had just spent a couple of days with in West Yorkshire. For whatever reason, kindness to an impressionable child, friendship to my father or whatever, Jimmy indulged me, listening to my rant and injecting the occasional bit of common sense on the rare occasions I paused for breath.
More recently, before going to see Tony Benn’s Will and Testament at St George’s Hall we met at a pub on London Road and there was another debate, this time about Scottish independence. We did not agree on everything, but on the broad issue of what we wanted to happen there was consensus — we both wanted Scotland to go its own way for its own good but mainly because we both wanted to see a rocket fired up the arse of the English establishment. As with the miners’ strike 30 years earlier, we never got the outcome that we wanted.
But the conversation with Jimmy that sticks in my mind most was one that took place around a decade ago. The topic was Hillsborough and its various villains were all eviscerated. But then Jimmy said something that, as a journalist, jolted me. “We know about South Yorkshire Police, the FA, The Ambulance Service, the Tory government and all the rest,” he said. “But what about the media? What about the tradition of investigative journalism in this country? Where was the investigative journalism after Hillsborough?”
It is a question that haunts me because I know there isn’t an answer to it, not a good one anyway. The truth, to borrow a sometimes misused phrase, is that in the main the investigative journalism that needed to be done, the search for facts and the holding of authority to account, was carried out by grieving families and their supporters. If there is a more damning indictment of my own industry I cannot think of one. With obvious honourable exceptions — the peerless Brian Reade and David Conn in particular — journalists in this country failed the Hillsborough families, the 96 victims and those who survived the tragedy. It is a disgrace that we should all face up to.
The easy thing would be to hide behind the despicable Kelvin MacKenzie, but given he is still finds employment in the very industry that should shun him it is hard to accept that his attitudes and his brand of journalism are unique to him. Indeed, there are still those within the media, even this very weekend when the lies have only just been nailed, who continue to argue that Liverpool fans must bear some responsibility for what happened at Hillsborough. Such beliefs are espoused not after attending a two-year long inquest, scrutinising the evidence and reaching a verdict as a jury member, but as a columnist who has to have his/her say regardless of how little research they have done.
It is rancid and it is indefensible.
But arguably more damaging than the things the media has done — the scandalous front page accusing fans of killing their own, of stealing from the dead and urinating on them; the vicious, ill-informed opinion pieces; the failure, even as recently as this week, to appreciate the gravity of the situation and give it the presence it deserves — it is what we didn’t do that was most damaging to the fight for justice. We didn’t do the basics of our jobs. We didn’t question authority as much as we should have done. We didn’t give a voice to the voiceless when they needed it most. In our research we did not go to the lengths that Professor Phil Scraton and Anne Williams went to to discover how the 96 victims came to die.
To borrow a phrase used at the inquests, we are guilty of negligence by omission.
Whenever major organisations make grave errors in public life, the done thing is to trot out some trite nonsense about how this will never happen again because lessons will be learned. The problem with the modern media is it is yet to accept the extent of its own failings where Hillsborough is concerned so we are not yet even at the stage of trite pledges. There is a sense of denial, a willingness to highlight the failings of others rather than shining a light on our own and a hope that if Brian Reade and David Conn keep on fighting the good fight they will cover up the rest of our inadequacies.
Now, more than ever, though, there is a need for everyone to face up to their own responsibilities.
If the national media, and particularly the print media, is to survive the post-Leveson era, then the sometimes cosy relationships between journalists (some, but not all) and authority figures need to be smashed once and for all.
For 27 years we let down the Hillsborough families and I, for one, am ashamed.
Jimmy, if you are reading this, you were right. End of debate.
- Jimmy McGovern’s award-winning documentary on Hillsborough is screened on ITV tonight at 10.20pm
Brilliant article. I come up agenst brainwashed people every day at work. Unfortunately I work with two expolicemen one of the South Yorkshire Persuasion and they are still closing rank. I had to leave the office the other day or I’d would of put one of them though the window. I’m a chilled laid back sort of person but I hate social injustice. YNWA.
Just like the events I South Yorkshire the industry has failed us again over the blacklist scandal
Bar the outstanding efforts of Phil Chamberlain and Rob Thomas at the Guardian. Exposing this injustice has been made by workers just like the families at Hillsborough
I completely agree with your conclusion. Well, I agree with the whole article but on a different tangent I’ve recently been thinking about the mainstream media and the effect of the internet / social media on news as a whole. The Whittingdale Byline article recently highlighted the cosy relations between the media and politicians that can influence and in the same vein we’re seeing the BBC watered down by a fear of Murdoch, his Tories and the threat of reducing it’s licence money.
Prior to the Iraq war we saw the worlds media accept everything they were fed with devastating consequences. In the Middle East in general we all suspect the media are selective in what we hear about in the same way we feel there’s one rule for one and another for others at a higher level than the media. People are losing faith in the mainstream media. We can access different news sources now. We can get mobile footage as good as live from any event across the world. We get access to bloggers across the world who are prepared to put their life on the line to keep us updated. It’s all helping to erode the need for the traditional press.
The media isn’t helping itself in this time of great change to news either. For some reason I follow the Express on Twitter. I’ve never seen an article from them that isn’t about Karen Danczuk’s cleavage. I find it infuriatingly patronising.
Regardless of the grovelling explanations, how many of us thought the Times lack of a front page mention of the coroners inquest in the first edition wasn’t orchestrated from the top? Whether it was or wasn’t, the damage was done.
I believe it’s peoples mistrust of Murdoch that could break the camels back. We all know how close he is to Rebekah Brooks and we all know that she spends her Sunday mornings drinking coffee with her neighbour David Cameron in Chipping Norton. It all seems too cosy and a little bit suspicious. There’s a feeling that any would be Prime Minister is vetted on Murdochs yacht in Santorini, Hayman Island or anywhere else it may be.
Some of Murdoch’s ‘supposed’ quotes over Brexit and how the EU don’t do what he says will turn people off his publications even more.
There are good, honest investigative journalists around but it’s getting harder to hear them. The days of John Pilger in the Mirror seem a long time ago. I wouldn’t dream of buying a newspaper anymore. I accept the potential damage that attitude can lead to but I feel I’d rather take my chance and sift through the reams of bullshit out there.
Apologies for deviating from the article but I think it’s an interesting subject that isn’t going to go away. The press feels controlled and I feel they treat us like thick peasants. In fact, I feel the whole Establishment is that way. We need a revolution, French style.
These giant corporations and the puppet masters behind them are pushing fear through the media so we consume, consume shit we don’t need to make us feel whole and better about ourselves.
‘Bowling For columbine’ put this across well.
The media keeps us dumbed down with trivial bullshit, to distract the masses, while the evil doers go about there clandestine activities.
This is where a conflict in me starts to arise, worrying what a team in Red does 9 months of the year and even in between.
Sport more than ever is controlled by the corporations and is also distracting and dumbing us down.
Maybe it was always a way of channelling the aggression of those with less, distracting them from the inequality and suffering?
You might want to read Adrian Tempany’s remarkable piece in today’s Guardian. He goes into this topic near the end.
Football distracts from inequality and suffering?…..Sturridge in his white Rolls Royce and £45 match tickets??? How does that distract?
The following information comes from 3 Google searches. Life is shit for alot of people. It’s not difficult to find this information. If people choose to read and get carried away by shit news then it is because they are lazy and want to be ignorant. That being said, most people simply could not handle thinking about all the suffering in the world or their lives every day. So. Is sport a form of escapism? Yes. Hopefully.
Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth. The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.
The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing.
Answer rounded to the million, 300 million people live in a country with a serious war. There are serious insurgencies but, given the number of them, it would be harder to give a clear answer.
You say “I believe it’s peoples mistrust of Murdoch that could break the camels back” Sadly, this really doesn’t seem to be the case at least from most of the general public, Murdoch’s publications are still the biggest selling in the country.
Mackenzie will probably be booked for question time in a few weeks time I’d imagine as if he shouldn’t be getting treated like a loathsome pariah.
Very courageous words by Tony Barrett. It speaks volumes, though, that this is published on a site created by and predominantly meant for Liverpool supporters, rather than in a mainstream paper. Certainly huge credit to TAW for publishing it. Sadly it may not be seen by many people who need to see it.
The mainstream media not having a proper look at themselves and admitting their own shameful failings is equal in my mind to the failings of the South Yorkshire Police and SYMAS. Admittedly, no one’s death on that fateful day resulted from the media. But their either outright lies (the S*un) or their abominable failure to do their job afterward, as Tony says — and therefore contribute to an insidious narrative that persists to this day in the minds of many people despite the Inquest verdict — surely did contribute to the despair that led to suicides and broken marriages and broken families. Print and broadcast media are indeed guilty of negligence by omission, and it is indeed rancid and indefensible.
I hope Tony Barrett manages to keep his job at The Times. As Tony Evans tried to convey recently in an interview with ‘The Set Pieces’: “I felt that in the Times I had a voice to put forward a different viewpoint, one that completely undermined what the Sun stood for, and it gave me and Tony Barrett the chance to talk to a readership that weren’t naturally sympathetic to us, and to get our message across to them, and to tell them what happened.”
This is a battle that must continue to be fought. I personally know people, as does my friend, who don’t accept the verdict. They stubbornly continue to believe what has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, been proven every which way. Lord Justice Goldring surely asked the question deliberately in 2 different ways to emphasise that it is certainly now beyond any reasonable doubt. We all of us have a duty to confront and speak out against such ignorance.
You know what Ellie, I feel like I’ve spent my whole life arguing about Hillsborough. It’s been a mix of being desperate to get the truth over and feeling such a rage that I’ve just wanted to punch their head in. If I’m honest, in all those encounters I don’t think I ever changed anyone’s mind. Obviously, I couldn’t know the figures but it felt like I was on a side with about 2% of the population backing me up and the opposition was 98%. Even this week, I spent a whole day arguing on Facebook with a lad I grew up opposite. It took the usual pattern of trying to use facts and information to get my point across and when that fell on deaf ears using intimidation and abuse. In the end, the argument became amicable and I thought I’d brought him round a bit. Anyway, next day he was spouting more bullshit on his new status. It suddenly dawned on me though, it’s not my job to oppose his shite anymore. I don’t need to. He’s now the one in the 2% and I’m in the 98%. If we all lived to 500 we’d never see it reach 0%. That’s fact. I can only speak for myself but I think I can move on and let them think what they like now. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. If they feel bitter over the truth it’s most likely down to issues they have about Liverpool or even jealousy. We can’t change them. It’s something they have to deal with or fester away. Let them think what they want. The battle for hearts and minds is over. We won. Just a suggestion but I think that’s my feeling on it.
P.s On an entirely different point, I’m desperate for us to win the Europa. I know football is secondary but I can’t help how I feel and I’m not going to hold back from saying my views. With Klopp, I feel we can pick up the reins of where we were in 1989. There’s nothing I’d like more. I noted the jubilation of the families this week. I wasn’t really sure what reaction to expect when I thought about it the day before the verdicts but I was pleased it was celebratory. Much as i’m fully aware the families and the club can never put this behind them, get closure or move on there probably will be a new direction for the rest of us. It’s gonna be difficult for me to convey without sounding flippant.
What seems like a lifetime ago, Anne Williams, who lived near me, gave me a copy of her book. I feel ashamed that I never helped in the fight for justice but I at least new the full truth. In 2012 a lot of information came out that many Liverpool fans were shocked by. I was shocked they didn’t know it already. It wasn’t new information. Again, difficult to convey but I became slightly irked by Liverpool fans in the sense that I felt the fight for justice became nothing more than a badge to wear. Selfie sticks at the memorial, profile pictures and shares and retweets on social media yet a lot had never actually taken the time to understand what they were fighting against. I think a lot thought it was a fight against the Sun. I remember around the time of the Millennium when Anne gave me the book. The fight was almost none existent except for the families and a hardcore group from Liverpool. It wasn’t that long ago we had to plead with everyone we knew to sign a petition to get Anne 100k signatures. I always felt uneasy about the stand up for the 96 song too. It felt like emotional blackmail. I don’t mean this in a bad way but when opposing fans had to stand up for a second time in 20 minutes it didn’t sit well with me. I think, what I’m trying to say is, when we lose a loved one, we never actually ‘move on’. We wouldn’t want to either but we do try and make the best of our loss if that makes sense.
So, although the families and those directly affected won’t suddenly get closure from the events of this week, in some ways, one part of the clubs identity can. As a club we can be proud of the people of Liverpool and we’ll never forget but maybe, for example, over the coming years we can discuss safe standing. Was it the Adrian Tempany article you referred to that mentioned how the fans in the Leppings Lane had chosen to stand on the terrace because terrace culture was what they were into. Without sounding cold, I think I’m saying I hope for a bright future now this long struggle has finally been won. It almost feels fitting that we now return to the top on the pitch. Klopp can be the one to heal us.
My mate who I’m going to Basel with saw Anne a week or two before she passed. She said ‘listen, I’m going a happy women. I got what I wanted’. She knew this week would happen. This week, I spoke to my mate Graham who lost his best friend Eric. He’s the one of the ones who’s letter from Ingham from 1996 was published in the Echo this week. He’s suffered greatly from anger but he seemed calm this week. So, it’s taken me a long time to get my point over due to the sensitivities but I’d love to see us build on this spirit that some have shown and become strong as a club too. I feel it would be fitting for everything the club now stands for and always will because of the battles of the last 27 years. Thursday is a huge game,
Is it only me that thinks Murdoch is a horrible cunt?
Almost certainly not. A lot of talented living legends have bit the dust this calendar year. Murdoch will just keep going and live forever like the fucking emperor from star wars.
No, he’s a horrible, despicable cunt. Makes Pete Price look saintly. Well, maybe not that much, but you get my point……
With a few honourable exceptions, the national media is a disgrace. Craven, cowardly, sycophantic. Most newspapers and thus journalists cater to the whims of their tax dodging, xenophobic owners. Investigative journalism is all but dead, replaced by lifestyle articles and celebrity culture. But it’s nothing new: I’m writing about the miners’ strike at the moment, and the press and TV coverage of that event was utterly disgraceful: a narrative was set up and framed from day one. That’s why more and more of us are relying on alternative media and why I won’t mourn the closure of certain titles (though I do have sympathy for some of those losing their jobs). Tony’s right, the media has failed us, it will continue to do so. Hillsborough is just one of many tragic examples of journalists closing ranks. See also the Kincora scandal, the Shrewsbury Two, The Birmingham Six. More will come out in the wash now that Cabinet Papers from the 70s and 80s are being released. The tragedy is that so little effort was put into reporting these cases at the time: the media were all to happy to toe the establishment line, dismissing those who followed up as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘Marxist nutcases’. Hats off to those like Rob Evans, Seumas Milne and David Conn for going against the grain.
It’s not the media’s fault, it’s the fault of the people for not only not giving a shit, but having an obsession with victim-blaming.
Take this for example: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36174047
What do you think the general public reaction to something like this would be? For most people, complete indifference. For a slightly smaller portion of the population, they’re waiting for the *justified* retaliation so they can say “AHA TOLD YA, SEE HOW VIOLENT THOSE PEOPLE ARE?! NOW LETS TURN THIS INTO AN ANTI-IMMIGRATION ISSUE, THESE PEOPLE ARE A THREAT TO US!!!!”
Will those people ever get justice? Probably not. Will the U.S military EVER be tried for war crimes ever? Definitely not. So why would the reaction to Hillsborough be different, keeping in mind that pretty much everyone who isn’t pure filth was 100% on the side of the victims? It’s the people’s silence, indifference and victim-blaming attitude that’s to blame. If that wasn’t the case, the media wouldn’t have any readers to flog nonsense and lies too.
Investigative journalism died somewhere in the 80’s with the rise of Thatcher and the corporate control of politicians and the press, often by nefarious means, the number of paedophiles allowed in parliament an example. Blackmail is the currency of parliament and paedophilia the golden currency. ITV’s World in Action documentaries used to be good, BBC’s Panorama ceased to be any good years ago and the recent documentary on Corbyn after his victory for the leadership was the most laughable moment in TV history.
There is some hope though. I would recommend Exaro news. They seem to be proper old style journalists and their exposure of child abuse by politicians and the activities of the bankers is to be applauded. Have a read of their site when you have time exaronews.com
Indeed. Remember the halcyon days when John Pilger was a staple of ITV’s Weekend World? Today he’s reduced to crowdfunding films and the (very) occasional column in The Guardian. His move from the mainstream to the margins is a perfect example of how far to the right this country has moved.
The media is very largely not doing it’s job, and Hillsborough, as in the above article, is an honest assessment of that. The powers that be (as the phrase goes) get to make the stories and the media, en masse are repeating the stories without questions..effective, searching questions.
It’s evident all over, with the exception of “opinion” pieces that can punch out and jab at issues, papers like the Telegraph can unashamedly knock out progaganda that suits it’s proprietors. .as one example.
I survived Pen 4 on Leppings Lane in 1989.
I’ve seen the control of the establishment in full force, first hand, having been indicted with my brothers and sisters for the last 27 years for no reason.
Journalism might not stop this, but they could at least try not to collude with the establishment to perpetuate lies and half truths. Some balance would be good..just now and then.
Modern journalism is lazy. It is more focused on commercialism than fact, and as a result the majority of people have no respect whatsoever for journos (sorry TAW).
I live in Belfast; the S*n branded my community as uppity fenians (look it up). Countless families have fought for justice for their loved ones; murdered by the state machine, and many more continue to do so. So question yourself; why if you are so reflective about Hillsborough are you not doing something about the issues that continue to dog Northern Ireland? There is an ongoing campaign from families in Ballymurphy (pre-dating Bloody Sunday) when the queens paras (yes the same ones responsible for Bloody Sunday) opened fire killing innocents; including children and a priest who was helping the wounded. The Ballymurphy massacre is the tip of the iceberg as to how the state, over decades, facilitated murder in N. Ireland.
Recently commenced; the inquest into eleven-year-old Francis Rowntree who died on April 22 1972 – two days after he was struck on the head by a rubber bullet while walking through the Divis Flats complex (where he lived) close to Belfast’s Falls Road. The soldier on ‘trial’ (who appears behind a curtain?) states that he is not sorry; in fact he cant even remember the day/event it was so long ago! Let me tell you, if I or any person with a decent conscious was involved in a day when an eleven year old boy lost his life, we would remember!
Journos; you learn nothing; you never do. Go lick your wounds and look for sympathy elsewhere, because you will do the same thing over and over again.