Like many people I tend to look online at the news headlines, both early morning and late evening. Because it’s easy I look on Google, mainly because it was the first news page used years back.
In recent times I have tended to question all headlines, as most are either totally exaggerated or plainly biased. Beyond that there is a category that is made up and features stories that are little short of lies. The first thing I look for is the headline. Any that include the words could, might, or may really need a “health warning” and are best ignored. I long ago came to the conclusion that they are written as they are because they are politically biased, or perhaps because the writer is typing from his or her office chair and is just too damn lazy to get off their bum and find out the true facts.
The quality of the story is reflected in the way it’s put together. Particularly with farming matters, the errors in almost any article, even in so called quality papers, are inexcusable. Photo captions, too, particularly of simple things, like the identity of birds featured, would often be better done by a child. In both photos and text, most bovines are a ‘cow’, regardless of obvious teats or testicles.
It is apparent the writer has not been to see the subject or has simply asked someone in the office for help. “They’re cows, mate!”. All bales are ‘hay’. It is all so ‘second rate’. Despite that I still Google the news, because some of the stories are useful, but just look for yourselves. Check out those three words I have already mentioned. In times past the better papers employed specialist journalists who knew about their subject. What you read you could believe. This is also the norm on the BBC too.
Farming Today, with the early morning cuppa, was really informative and worth listening to. These days, though, it is a ‘woke-centred’, flabby, environmentalist 12 minutes wasted.
I particularly remember the days when Foot and Mouth Disease was ravaging the country in the early seventies, when really good presenter/reporters were giving farmers the latest up-to-the-minute situation as the disease spread fear around farms countrywide. Tim Finney, George Macpherson and later Dylan Winter still come to mind. Then more recently this magazine’s long-standing editor, John Harvey. With them, what you heard you could believe, because they had checked their facts and knew their subject. Let’s hope the new programme, GB News, lives up to expectations and is worth watching, with Andrew Neil and other disillusioned, ex-BBC staff, who, like so many listeners, have just got fed up with being fed ‘woke guff’.
Please don’t think all I do is complain! I base these articles about ‘life on my patch’ and what other farmers speak to me about, so I think they give an honest appraisal. One thing most farmers in the South East consistently complain about is the lack of interest/service we get from HM Constabulary who were, once upon a time, inclined to drop round, perhaps even get their boots dirty, and would regularly show their faces in quiet hamlets and villages to let any youths looking to get up to no good know that that wasn’t the place to do it.
Over many years my little hamlet was served by one man, a man who stood no nonsense and was well respected, if a little feared, by local youths. PC Luck’s transport was silent and effective, a police pushbike. He would suddenly appear up a lane of an evening around twilight when a little gaggle of youths was gathering looking for mischief. “What’s going on here then, lads?” he would ask as he put his old bike down, “Jimmy, Robert, you, young Davis. You should be home now; you two Reilly’s, I’ve just seen your mum and she said if I saw you to tell you to get back to supper, so hop it.”
So it went on. Sometimes a clip round an ear, which today would get his dismissal, would put some over-cocky little… in his place. But all done in a way that brought respect for the law and kept well on top of any crimes, other than perhaps the lads filling their pockets with often addled or ‘setty’ hens’ eggs from a nearby barn.
Always he had an easy but authoritative manner and there was very seldom trouble. Yet now the only time one really sees the police is when they flash by in cars on their way to lunch, tea breaks or to knock off. The kids are as likely to stick two fingers up at them, or shout abuse.
If one has intruders, one is advised to “ring 101” and make a report. A total waste of time. You are likely to wait for an officer for three or four days, then they can do nothing, except probably tell you to ring 101…. Now we all know the force is understaffed, totally stretched. I have had officers out to inspect damage who are almost crying with shame that they can’t do better. Recently one said to me when I asked her what she would do in my shoes if they turned up again, “Ring 999”. Two nights later the little… turned up again, smashing windows in our old dairy. I rang 999 to be treated like an idiot, and told 999 “was for emergencies only and to call 101”.
Yet I had previously seen these same lads running around on an asbestos-type roof some 25 to 30ft high. Those roofs crack easily and concrete is hard and unforgiving…Now, surely, that’s an emergency?
Editor’s note: I hope Nick will forgive me for suggesting that it is precisely because everyone ‘Googles’ the news these days that newspapers can’t afford specialist agricultural reporters. My newspaper office in the early eighties had around 10 reporters, four feature writers and five photographers. With revenue dwindling, local papers today rely on a couple of youngsters with mobile phones…