Monday, 3 December 2018

THE FREE PRESS. Most of our newspapers are in trouble. So what can be done to save them?

300 years ago our British media began to develop. Newspapers began to appear, and reach the people, providing them with information that they would have otherwise been ignorant.

The Governments of the time did not like these news sheets, not least because they were often castigated and ridiculed by them.

So Governments tried to suppress them, and a long battle ensued for press freedom - the fight for the ability to publish the truth free from political influence. Over the years, the press won. A 'Free Press' emerged, becoming one of the king-pins of our democracy.

Now, our 'Free Press' is in trouble, serious financial trouble. The circulation of many national and local newspapers have declined, many have gone.

My attention was drawn to this last week when I received a reference to a Guardian article on Homeopathy. I went to the Guardian website and read what was a well written, and well balanced piece on the subject. Unfortunately the article was over 15 years old!

But whilst reading it I noticed that part of the screen was taken up with request to pay for my visit to the Guardian website. This was the message (with my emphasis).

Since you’re here…
… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

The Guardian is editorially independent. So we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias. It isn’t influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This means we can give a voice to the voiceless. It lets us challenge the powerful - and hold them to account. At a time when our honest, factual reporting is critical, it’s one of many things that set us apart.

Our approach is different from others in the media. While others offer only fixed subscriptions, we give our readers the option to support us voluntarily. This is not meant as a short term solution; this approach is for now and for the future. By supporting The Guardian, you’re investing in the long term sustainability of our independent, investigative journalism.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as £1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

The Guardian newspaper was once my paper. I was a regular reader, long before the internet. I read it because I trusted it as a source of serious, progressive, independent information about the world around us.

So why did I stop reading it? And why did I not send a £1 to support my old newspaper? 
The reason can be found above, in the second paragraph
  • editorially independent?
  • we set our own agenda?
  • our journalism is free from commercial bias?
  • it isn't influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders?
Would that this was true! If is was I would still be buying the newspaper, leave alone sending them a £1 over the internet!

My problem with the Guardian is that, for over 15 years, it has published nothing positive about homeopathy. Indeed, it has become a bastion of medical fundamentalists, and homeopathy skeptics, people like Ben Goldacre, who have been allowed to publish both their affirmative views on so-called 'scientific' medicine, and their jaundiced and unsupported views on homeopathy. In neither has the Guardian give 'a voice to the voiceless'. There has been no right of reply to allow the homeopathic community to air their views in the Guardian, or indeed, in any other part of the mainstream media.

So I do not believe that the Guardian is 'editorially independent', that it is any longer a paper 'that sets its own objectives', or that its journalism is 'free from commercial bias'. If its advertising revenues are declining what remains of them are still coming mainly from the pharmaceutical industry and its allies. Perhaps it is a little too much to expect the Guardian (and other struggling newspapers) to bite the hand that is feeding them.

So if I, and indeed the entire homeopathic community, is being continually attacked by the Guardian to win and maintain pharmaceutical advertising, I (and many other like-minded people) will certainly do nothing to support it. 

In taking this stance I am not alone. Many of my colleagues, practitioners of homeopathy and other natural therapies, feel the same. You don't feed that hand that attacks you!

And as conventional medicine declines, throughout the world, and natural therapies increase in popularity, the media now finds itself riding a horse that is destined to be a loser! The Guardian, and most of the mainstream media organisations, have lost out on the support of a small, but significant and growing group of people. Moreover it is a group of people who would once have gravitated around the Guardian. But no more. Natural medicine is alive and well, despite the sustained attacks the Guardian has made on it.
Natural medicine is growing. 
The Guardian is in decline.

There was a touch of regret when I wrote that. Yet actually, the situation is worse than this. As far as health is concerned, I am aware of two main trends that the Guardian steadfastly refuses to recognise and report.

  1. That conventional medicine, and pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, are causing serious illness and ill-health. It does not take much 'investigative journalism' to realise this, and that it is a scandal needing investigation. So is the Guardian challenging the powerful pharmaceutical companies about this? No, it is not.
  2. That homeopathy is a safe and effective medical therapy, one that has cured my illnesses over the years, and the sickness of many millions of patients over the last 220 years. So is the Guardian giving a voice to homeopathy, and other natural therapies? No, it has removed its voice, and refuses to hear it.
The fact that the Guardian refuses to publish anything about either of these trends, and refuses even to acknowledge or discuss them, has a further consequence. It means that I can no longer trust what the newspaper says about anything else.

If it is not prepared to be honest in what it publishes about health, something I have been involved in for some time now, how can I any longer believe that the paper is reporting openly, impartially, honestly and fairly about politics, or the environment, or anything else?

But wait, I hear someone say. Was it not the Guardian that reported recently on the harm being caused by medical implants? Yes, indeed, the Guardian was involved in this piece of real investigative journalism. 

Yet, as I asked on my blog, why did this investigation look into, and heavily criticise medical implants, when it continues steadfastly to refuse to criticise the harm being done to patients by the pharmaceutical industry? I can only assume that the Guardian is not supported by the medical implant industry which is smaller, less influential, and provides the Guardian, and other newspapers, with insufficient financial support.

This is why we no longer have a free press. The press is free from government, but it is not free from the commercial and industrial interests that continue to support it. And this is why the mainstream media picks and chooses who it attacks, and who it supports.

So the Guardian is not editorially independent. It does not set its own agenda. Its journalism is not free from commercial bias. And it is influenced by corporate interests, which control its editorial policy, and steers the opinions it shares with the public. The Guardian is controlled by the powerful, and together they have ensured that natural medicine has become voiceless.

Fortunately, natural medicine speaks for itself in its ability to treat sick people, safely, effectively, and inexpensively. People continue to hear us. But not by reading the Guardian.