On the 5th June 2019 we published THIS POSTING reporting on the hearing of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry Panel (IJCI). It was a hearing of Old and New Media discussing a number of subjects (contained in above link). Regular readers will be aware that we were led to believe by the IJCI that we would be permitted to film the Hearing. It went back on its word and prohibited filming of the "public" event.
All Island Old Media, alongside New Media, RICO SORDA, TOM GRUCHY, and VFC were invited. Only the JEP and the BAILIWICK EXPRESS had the courage to turn up and defend its reporting (or not) during the Operation Rectangle era and subsequently. The BBC and ITV/CTV lacked that courage and didn't turn up (as explained HERE)
As reported previously by VFC the hearing/meeting was, on the whole, amicable. Of course we (Old Media/New Media) did not agree on everything but if nothing else the IJCI managed to get (some of) us around the table and iron out some of our differences and hopefully help us all to understand each others perspectives a little better.
In our POSTING of the 5th June 2019 we wrote: "We will look to publish the transcript of the Hearing as soon as it becomes available."
We can now exclusively report that the transcripts of that hearing have now been published and can be viewed HERE. Indeed ALL transcripts of the IJCI'S Public Discussions between the 21st - 24th May 2019 can be viewed from HERE.
Due to the distrust of Jersey authorities, in that they might take the transcripts off-line, (again) we have decided to publish them (the Media Hearing) in full so they will remain accessible until the so-called corrupt Attorney General's Office gets this Blog closed down.
Now we have identified topics for discussion in this meeting today. I am just in a moment going to go round and ask everybody to identify themselves. I am sure most people know, but again that is for the record please, and then we will address those questions, because what we seek is a constructive submission approach from the press that will help everyone in Jersey. There are positives. There are still concerns that we have been hearing. We have met with over 160 people last week. There is still work to be done but there is a lot of work that has been done. So it is a balance, a constructive balance that we are looking for.
So have said that, the only other issue that I would say is a matter of housekeeping. If the fire alarm goes, only exit through that door, down the stairs, out the main door and gather in the car park. Please turn off your mobile phones. Please respect our request for no recording or recording devices. Please turn off ... and I see everybody nodding. So with that, can I turn then to ask you, perhaps starting to my left?
JF: Sure, so my name if James Filleul. I am the owner and editor of Bailiwick Publishing which includes Bailiwick Express.
FO: Thank you, James.
JF: Yeah, I mean in terms of the actual services I am not qualified to comment on that. I do not have any personal experience of the services myself. In terms of the media, then obviously there was a lot of reporting around the publication of your report a few years back, which was thorough and comprehensive, both across the traditional media, social media blogs, everything. You know there was a lot gone into, and that has continued in part over the last two years, although I think probably in the last ... as time has gone on that has probably dissipated and then it has needed specific instance or examples to kind of generate it again. So I think from a media point of view the interest is still there. The concern is still there. It is just whether or not it is front of mind, kind of top of the agenda. So I think from a media point of view it has been a story which has been covered exceptionally comprehensively and will continue to be so. But I think that is all I would like to say in terms of an opening comment. FO: All right, thank you. Andy?
AS: I would echo James' opening remarks. I do not feel particularly well placed to comment on the way services have or have not improved, although we reported on the reports that they have not. What I would say is the narrative has changed tack or the control of the narrative has changed tack in a sense that there has been acknowledgement in a way that marks a contrast to previously of failings. I see that as part of a broader tapestry of government seeking to perhaps exploit mistakes in the past in order to push through reforms as they are now across the public sector. So it remains to me seen whether that expression of what has happened before translates into positive action, and I think the jury is out on that. So we have had lots of statements of ... FO: So are you saying a new work in progress?
RS: First of all I think it is shame that this is not being filmed today because I think the media should be open to filming, and I think we should have been asked if we minded. I certainly would not have and I think it would have been great for transparency. Also the media plays a very important role in the question you have just asked. Do they report it? Can they go in depth on it? I do not know how you can move forward to 2017 without addressing the past. The past of the media from 2008 onwards has not been addressed. It was not addressed in the Care Inquiry.
FO: Rico, I am going to stop you there.
RS: That is right but it has to be addressed.
FO: Our purpose here today, our remit is to review what has happened since 2017.
RS: I understand that.
FO: That is why we are here. So please let us focus on ...
FO: ... and how those concerns might be addressed and how the media, not just Jersey, but the world might assist in that task. So please let us concentrate on the reason for this meeting today.
NM: I think to a certain degree as well, I will not go over what he said, you know, but I will make the point, if you do not address the failures of the past you are doomed to repeat them. That goes without saying and I think it is an outrage that is not being addressed. It has gone, forgotten, and the media have got a hell of a lot of answering to do for the way they reported during Operation Rectangle.
As far as the question goes, question one, what have we seen different in the last two years in services affecting children? Well nothing at the end of the day, and I make this clear in the evidence I gave to the Care Inquiry. It is a box ticking exercise that we have seen. You have seen people scurrying around saying, "Oh, well we've got a Children's Minister." Yes, we do. We have got a Housing Minister and our housing stock is in a hell of a mess. We have got a Health Minister. Our health system is on the brink of destruction. So it was a box ticking exercise. I have seen no difference. We have got a Children's Commissioner. Well, so what? Who is he answerable to? What has changed?
You know, what is different here is the question you are asking. Well just recently it was reported up at Greenfields ... I do not know if you have seen that report ... of wrongdoing going on up at Greenfields, which was mentioned in the evidence to the Care Inquiry, where a witness gave evidence saying that she was instructed to shred evidence of the Grand Prix system. Well none of this was mentioned in the media reports, sort of thing. So what I am saying is the original whistleblower, Simon Bellwood, and former Senator Stuart Syvret, Health Minister showed these failings in Greenfields back then. But it is still happening now. This is the problem.
FO: Neil, you have the point that I made to Rico.
NM: I thought that was the question. I was addressing the question. What have you seen different in the last two years?
FO: And you say nothing and you make the point about the Children's Commissioner and Greenfields.
AL: Neil, can I ask, in terms of, you know, the comments that come on your blog and obviously people knowing what your interests and stop and approach you. What kind of feedback are you getting that way from people who are actually experiencing services and so on?
NM: Well I think the majority of my readers are, if you like, they are progressive. They are people who have been had over by the establishment and the rest of it. They are not convinced. I do not know, you obviously read the blog yourself. You will see the comments. There is not a lot of people who are convinced that anything has changed.
NM: The Jersey way is still here, alive and well. So I think predominantly the comments you get on my blog is that nothing has changed.
AL: People sense that nothing has changed. Thank you. NM: Okay.
NM: No, I think they can see things have not changed because we have still got an Attorney General that wears about three or four different hats. He is the guy that advises the Executive and decides what gets prosecuted or not.
NM: So basically the structure that allowed all this abuse to happen over 7those decades is the exact same structure as we have got now, and we
can see that. We have got unelected Bailiff, unelected Deputy Bailiff, unelected Attorney General, Solicitor General. Nothing in that respect has changed. We have got a couple of box ticking exercises and we have got, you know, a Commissioner. It means nothing. It is nothing, you know? And again in my evidence to the Care Inquiry I suggested that you were bold and looked at understanding paedophiles, what makes them operate, what makes them work. The same model is still in control now. They are waiting for children to be abused and they are imprisoning paedophiles. Why do they not understand a paedophile, stop him abusing our children, stop them sending them to our prisons. So, yeah, nothing has changed. The mindset is exactly the same now as it was back in the 1920s.
AL: Which I think again the point you raise is a really important point and it is one that it is not just sort of applicable to this jurisdiction. But a lot of people in different jurisdictions are questioning huge investment in investigating, identifying sort of, you know, child sexual abuse for example, but very little investment in let us try and understand the causes. I think it is a timely point which is on our horizon, yeah.
AL: Yes, yes.
AS: ... and indeed our letters (?) page to seek to establish what public opinion is from the commentarial is a very dangerous thing, because those people phone in anonymous often, and very often they are people whose record has got stuck in the same groove and no matter how much change comes through, they will simply plod the same path over and over again. I say that in relation to comment about the JEP. Now I am not going to comment on the past. I believe that JEP has changed somewhat under the managership but ....
FO: And I see a lot of nodding.
NM: I give credit for them turning up. At least they had the courage to turn up. Where is BBC? Where is ITV? Where are they? At least these guys turned up.
AS: What I was going to say was that on all media, and with all manner of publishers, you get the same people who are absolutely hell bent on holding on to views and they will be wholly out of touch with the way things are now, and that is in relation to child abuse, in relation to JEP. Probably from my side that is in relation to Rico and Neil, who were cast as villains by some in the past, we are cast as villains by some on the other side, and I have to say that the people around this table, I believe, have gone on a journey and made significant steps actually. So just a note of caution, that you actually give much credence to what is said on some of these comment forums.
AS: Absolutely, yes.
FO: And we want your constructive input as to how your strength can be used to go forward and protect children.
SC: It is an interesting issue in terms of is there a kind of ethical dilemma for editors in terms of the commentarial, as you say, of what you publish or do not publish. To some extent there is a bit about the kind of freedom of expression. So do you that, and to what extent do you look to try to say this is the same line all the time so we are not going to publish those?
AS: I think that is out of my direction, to be honest. You know, we have to provide platforms for people to have that debate, and save for them calling me a whatever, or Neil a whatever, we probably had it rough (?), you know.
RS: And I would say, you know, JEP has definitely been better since Andy has taken over. I have no doubts about it.
RS: And they have covered stories which they never used to have in the past concerning child abuse and things like that.
NM: What I think we ought to sort of mention now is we were always at war with the JEP, and all the mainstream media. They were at war with us. It was from both sides. I think that we have gotten a lot better and they have seen us ...
NM: They seen us as the enemy. We saw ... RS: We do shout sometimes.
NM: But the thing is, and this is where it needs to stop, is we all need to try and work together on this rather than being enemies, and we have all made great strides along those ways. But the problem, that there is that provide. The mainstream media, I think, are, "No, we don’t want anything to go with the bloggers," and the bloggers ... but, you know, there is a lot that we could and should be working on together. They need to be holding their hand out. We have held our hand out.
FO: Point noted, Neil, and it is a good point. So can I come to the next question? What media ...
MD: Can I have a say?
MD: You published a remarkable report. One thing about that report that the public knows how much it cost, and I blame the media to a large extent for the failure of making ... there is enough material in your report to give the media stuff for the next 100 years, and they have failed. I mean you have seen the number of people that are here today. You know everybody who is in this audience. They have not attracted any public concern. They have not done so. It should be an enormous issue. It is not, and I think that is very largely a failure of the press. It is a system failure of the press generally but specifically in a little community like this where the press is powerful and has got the ability to change things when it wishes to do so, on this one it is just totally part and parcel of the Jersey way.
On the radio yesterday ... they are not here today ... the BBC were publishing exactly the same reports of the hearings you have been having now. You would think everything was wonderful by what they were saying and that is the PR approach of loving Jersey, all this stuff, punching above our weight. All these little cliché expressions which the press use all the time to gee people up, pick us up. Everything is wonderful. There is nothing to worry about.
The finance industry is wonderful. That is the central issue. That is the central image and they do not want to tarnish that as we knew years ago from when it was a media issue, when the national media got hold of it. Oh, we must protect, we must not tarnish our image. And these guys they move around from one journal to a radio to a PR in business, they move around, the same guys, promoting PR. That is what they do. They are PR.
FO: Mike, the point is again noted, but can we now come back to why we are here and you are actually sitting round a table being prepared to discuss it. Let me ask you this question. What media campaigns and/or reporting in the last two years ... in the last two years, all right ... since the publication of the report, since the clear recommendations have been laid before the public and all the professional bodies, what media reporting has had an impact do you think? Andy, let me start with you.
AS: Well we have reported all the official, obviously the official stuff that comes out of government. That is highly controlled. We had a reporter, who is no longer with us, who did some work on Greenfields and that was instrumental in Mr Collins succeeding and getting a compensation scheme going.
AS: Yeah, and I suppose what we learned from that is that there is still ... I mean for us it is about trust. For whatever reason a lot of people who have been through the care process do not trust the JEP to be a voice for them, which hampers our reporting actually, and that narrative is reinforced by comments around that, that is not helpful. But when we did make inroads into this and we did actually get them talking to us, it was like a floodgate opening again. So actually once people began to feel that they could tell us our stories, very definitely it became quickly apparent there is a huge amount of pent up issues that are being reported on. Sorry, so that does not really answer your question.
AS: There is a pretence in government I think that some how reforms have created a new way of doing things in Jersey, and part of that is to reform communications and to enable the flow of information that allows for proper conversation and critical evaluation, because the information obviously is key to that. I think that is utterly false. I think we have seen more control over information and media now, that I have noticed, that I have had in 20 years of working with JEP, without going into PRLS(?). Yeah, I think that would be my view.
RS: Yeah, okay. But it is very hard for me on that question, because no disrespect, I do not read the JEP so I do not know what ...
AS: Occasionally you do.
RS: Yeah, unless there is something ... you know, one in a while there is something worth reading. But, you know, that is how I have always been but, you know, a lot of people do read it.
RS: But the JEP has definitely changed under Andy, that that is a good thing. It has definitely come out of the darkness into the light and he is allowing his ... I do not know if they are journalists, or what ... or reporters to write stories ... Michael Morris is very good ... you know, to investigate. It is about investigating, is it not? Any one can just put a story out and then two days later we move on to the next one, and that was the difference with the blogs. We were able, just as citizens, to get hold of (inaudible) evidence and develop it, investigate it, because there was no constraints on us. We could spend a week, we could spend two weeks on one story. Whereas the media, the mainstream media, cannot do that and it is, you know, today's news is tomorrow's chip paper, you know.
AS: I am glad you made that point. That is my point actually and say I do not want to dodge the bullet, because it is fair accusation I suppose that the JEP does not do as much in depth investigative work as we would like to, but that is a resourcing issue. You know, when you have got the churn of writing a newspaper every single day, of which we publish what 25 pages of editorial content, you know plus on publication we deal with the same teen magazines, it is actually quite difficult to get under the cover of issues in the way you might have done. But it is possible.
AS: But alas the economics of newspapers do not allow a different approach.
NM: I think, you know, it becomes a mindset as well. I mean it was said by a journalist that the reporters over there think if somebody says it is raining and somebody says it is not, they think if they get both those stories they have got a balanced story but none of them ever look out the window, and you know, that is where I think the problem is. They think their job is done if they told both sides of a story, and I do not think that is just Jersey. I think it is a bit of a mindset that does come along, and I think more journalists should be looking out the window.That, you know....
AS: I mean look at today's front page for example. You know, we have chosen to look into and hold accountable the current civil service leadership in terms of how they are paid and what they are paid, and that has taken actually more than just regurgitating and looking out the window. We will look out the window.
AS: But it is about time and pressure and resources. Now, you know, confronted with a report that big, which is what yours was ...
AS: ... that takes a team of people a lot of time to go through to report contemporaneously. You can come to my newsroom if you like and see how it operates. I mean you are welcome.
FO: I saw James nodding when you were saying one or two things, alongside Neil and Rico were nodding
JF: Yeah, I mean I think Neil makes a really good point actually in terms of ... I think it was Hilary Clinton that called it fake balance or fake impartiality, and it is an absolutely fair point. That is exactly what it is. The thing with the media is that it is such a ... sorry, the traditional media ... it is such a broad spectrum so you have so many different types of stories and different types of reporting. So you can almost prove whatever you want to prove by just picking a certain story, you know. So Neil is absolutely right. There is a lot of it which is that kind of fake impartiality.
To just bring us back to the question that you asked, which is what campaigns we can kind of draw attention to. So Bailiwick has done a lot of work with the foster carers in terms of case studies, telling the story of people who have been into foster care and how that has been successful, so it has been very positive reporting and we have had some very good feedback on that from the foster care teams in Jersey, that that has helped them find foster carers, which is obviously a major issue. So we feel that has been a very positive thing that has happened over the last couple of years.
There is just kind of one final point which I want to draw from some of the comments that Mike made earlier on, which is one of the benefits that Bailiwick has, which the other media do not, is everything ...
So, you know, when Mike is talking about the media failing in terms of not sparking interest, actually when we do stories on it we see that actually the audience is not really that interested, and I do not judge that to be a failing of the media. I think that is a wider societal problem.
NM: I think it is just cultural. But going back to the actual, you know, the question I have on it is you are asking what are the campaigns and everything, you know, really that makes it. I published the defence case of the former Chief of Police, Graham Power, and it was a 62,000 word document, 94 pages. I published the whole lot on my blog and within 48 hours that was the third most popular blog that I have ever published. So, you know, I have got different experience on this. Of course if we go back ... and I know that these guys were not in charge at the time ... but this was leaked to the media back then. They buried it. The media buried it. There is no getting away from that. So this was a very important document.
FO: Of course.
AS: I know it is about the past but I feel I have been accused of something more ...
MD: Not you, Andy.
AS: The point I was trying to make with that is like it was a document. There was a lot of interest in it. You know although it was a document from a few years ago there was huge, massive interest.
FO: So potential there. Alyson?
AL: So I just want to say something with James. One of the stories that you did relatively recently was about children placed off island.
JF: It is interesting and we have lots of feedback on that story which I think would be interesting. So the reason we did it is that it came from a court. It was a write up of a judgment on JLIB, which is the Jersey Legal Information Board, where effectively the goings on of the court are fully transparent for the public ...
NM: But the stories were....
JF: the story was hugely well read, both in Jersey and in the UK. You know it was a very well accessed story. But we actually got some feedback after that story, some criticism because people said we should not have done it because people involved in the case guessed the identify of the child involved because if you know the particular family you will know things which no one else does and you can triangulate that. You can guess the identity, and they actually gave this person abuse on social media.
So it really got into this issue of how the media should be handling and treating these issues, and I fundamentally believe that we should not have done what we were asked to do, which is not report it. We should have reported it and if someone guesses and identity and then chooses to use a social media platform to abuse that person, then that is something we have to deal with it. So they have committed the problem by issuing the abuse not us in running the story.
AS: I mean again we fight similar battles all the time with people who seek to stop us reporting, that no one else is aware of and there is pressure at the moment for us to report far less of these cases. There is a reasonable fear of identification in a small ... I get that. We have very, very tight ... probably too tight actually in terms of what we could do ... guidelines on what you can and cannot do because the information might identify the person involved.
AS: Now we had to report something actually ... but I am coming under pressure, I understand, when it comes to the Children's Commissioner ultimately who is concerned because she talks to these people and that gets fed through the system, that we are doing too much. So we caught often in a difficult place.
MD: Can I say something? Can I make a contribution? The JEP like all printed papers is struggling. We know that. Financially it has and these are both financial organisations. They have got to make a profit to survive. Now we now that so it is a constraint. But when the JEP, for example, was in a better financial position they had a journalist who did publish a number of feature supplements on things like homelessness and social ... he went off to train to be a lawyer. I do not know if that a good thing or bad thing but that is what he did. But he was an excellent journalist and he was allowed a certain degree of free hand.
Now nowadays there are big supplements which regularly appear in JEP but they of course are based upon finance. They are paid advertising supplements to a large extent. But that just shows you ... it
shows me the priorities of a commercial organisation. They have got to produce commercial things. Now they are not incentivised in the same way to promote child welfare. I mean they do occasionally. Yeah, obviously they do because it comes up and they will get cases on damages, and all that stuff, which will focus public attention.
But the articles on commercial things, such as finance or this week's show house which they will spend enormous, glossy supplements on, those are regular features. But they are not featuring child welfare in the same way and you could do. You could do it on a regular basis and there is finance ...
AL: How would you do it, Mike?
MD: Well there is finance available. There should be finance available. There will be finance available.
AS: Mike, I agree there should be. I am biggest champion of that you will find.
MD: Well I would welcome the opportunity ... FO: There is 100% agreement with you on that.
NM: I think this comes back to James' point, you know he is worried about what he publishes and not publishes. But I would say, you know, this is where we are at a disadvantage as bloggers, is because these guys will have an army of lawyers to fight their case for them.
NM: No, but I am saying is you would have, Andy, you know ...
AS: No, no, but I would like to deal with that really. I have not spent a penny on lawyers in five years for right or wrong.
NM: But we are vulnerable in that respect. If we mistakenly identify somebody or something like that, like James was talking about, we are finished. We are kaput, you know. I mean they are bringing in legislation to close us down anyway, or they brought in the legislation to try and close us down. So you know they ...
NM: It is P.19/2016. It was the ...
NM: But we are not in the same context as that. You know this is our sort of worry, if we publish something that ...
SC: Can I maybe slightly change tack, but follow through on what I think is a very significant kind of point that James made about your being able to monitor what has been made and the low level of interest, because we are obviously very interested in it. People in the room who have been here regularly are interested in it. But the real issue is if there is going to be change in Jersey, the Jersey community needs to actually take some ownership for it. You know we have had concerns about the States taking ownership for being a corporate parent. But actually the man and women in the streets of St Helier needs to take ownership for it as well and so it is significant what you are saying about the low level of traction on these issues.
JF: Yes. There is a balance here which we have to tread every day. You cannot run your life by the statistics, is the first principle.
JF: So although, yes, we have got all the statistics and we know what will work and what will not work as a story that does not mean that is the only editorial decision. So for example the output of this review, we will cover it in depth even though I strongly suspect ... I hate to use the word, I know ... but I strongly suspect the audience will be low but I feel we need to do it because of its importance. So there is like an editorial overlay which goes over the top of that so we are not entirely run by the stats.
But the fact remains that we do not ... you know, Bailiwick has a very large audience these days ... but we do not see the traction on these types of stories in general. Specific ones, so the one that Alyson has rightly raised about the child in UK care, was hugely popular. So specific stories come through.
FO: Right. Can I just stop you ...?
FO: ... I think the significant thing there was it was not just that specific case. I think what happened was it caused people to think we have got, you know, 25 children off island, what kind of institutions are they in?
FO: And I think that was one of the greatest significance. Apologies, Rico, because I ...
RS: No, but I was just making ... you know obviously they are a news outlet and they want to put the news out and certain stories get more hits than other stories, and I think when I came into this at the very beginning, one of the things I always struggled was with how little people care. You will get a few people that really care, you know. We did what we did because we cared. But the majority of people, itis like, "If it's not on my door I don’t care about it basically." You know it is like you can run a really good piece in a newspaper, a really in depth story about abuse, and yet a cat pulling a smiley face, if you put that on the front that will get thousands of hits. That will go viral like a poppy cat and the child abuse will get like 100 ...
RS: It is just it is a mindset and it is a cultural thing and I do not know why that is. But child abuse especially some people just do not want to go there and they do not want to think about it. It is not on my door. I do not want to think about it.
JF: It is the first point, Rico. It is why you need to sort of kind of add the editorial overlays that I spoke about. So, yes, we could put a smiley cat picture and get some hits on it. We obviously do not do that.
RS: Yeah. No, but the point I was making is just, you know, it is a mindset with the public.
NM: But I think we come down to, with the reporting again, do we not, there is a point that Mike made that, you know, everybody knows much how you lot cost, 24 million quid. The media talk about 24 million quid all the time. How much this person got paid and whilst everyone is talking about the 24 million quid no one is talking about the abuse. So a lot of the public opinion right now is, "Wow, 24 million quid just for that," you know? And there is a lot of that.
JF: And it is a very fair point and I do understand that. I think the difference that Andy and I have is we have a very broad spectrum of both the viewpoints on any particular story, but also of stories to run as well. So we cannot just focus on one area. So in this particular case ...
JF: Or exclude others. So in this particular case, issue, however you want to phrase it, yes, we have to draw out the horrendous abuse and the societal failings that caused that abuse, so we have to do that and I believe we have done it. We also have to point to the fact that the Inquiry cost a very significant amount of money. So in some ways the problem Andy and I have, we have to do everything. We have to cover all of these different things.
JF: Whereas you are very specific which is great and I mean it works.
MD: I do not want to let the BBC get ... because they are not here, the BBC. These guys are commercial enterprises. The BBC is not. It is a public service and I think on that basis the service at the BBC local (inaudible) but regardless of what the faults in the national are, the local service provided by the BBC on these sorts of serious issues is pretty well appalling, and that has to be said and I think it is a disgrace they are not here.
AS: Have they been invited here though? Before we ...
NM: I think the point to make there with regard to the BBC for instance, because you know your report was massive. It was damning. It was scathing. It was one of the, you know, most significant reports this island has ever had. Now you are back after two years. Now yesterday the talking point for the BBC was what is the best thing about Jersey. What does Jersey do better than the rest of the world?
you are getting very few hits on the child abuse, because the BBC are wanting to talk to you about Jersey Royals.
JF: But people are not stupid and you know I have to hold on to what I do, and the fact that the broad, vast majority of our readers are actually sensible, informed, intelligent people, actually. Despite the people on the fringes that make all the noise, I think those people want a broad range of stuff in the media, without a doubt.
SC: One of the issues that I think with the media is that the average public will take out varying degrees of interest. There will be things that will interest them. The key thing is about influencers and have they influenced it. So what is your reach into ... I know having worked for most of my working life as a chief officer in the public service that every day what is in the papers is of importance and it does help shape thinking. Do you have a sense that you have got that kind of connection?
AS: Which is why actually I think, you know whatever, the paper has not changed since I took over. The one thing it has done, rightly or wrongly, is become a platform for a very diverse, you know, range of opinions. We have a responsibility and an authority and an influence, but that responsibility is foremost and that responsibility is to ensure that our platform is available to all. And actually you say we have frozen you out, that is simply not true, and I have invited lots of people who have been involved in ....
AS: No, no, you said that we had frozen you out. And actually, you know, that is what we did but I understand that responsibility, and yes we try and report in a professional fair and balanced way, but equally part of the paper is to give people a platform for letters and comment and we do that very broadly. So that is my response to that.
JF: Well I think it goes back to the point that Neil made, which is a really good one, about this fake impartiality thing, you know, and the media in some areas they fall this trap all the time. They think they have to be so balanced they end up becoming bland and inept.
RS: That is exactly what happens.
AS (?): No, but we do that but even when you choose a subject you still have to be balanced in reporting that subject. So the right to reply is a fundamental principle of professional journalism. So while we might not wish to hear from someone with a contrary view to the line they paper is peddling, it is our duty to have that view expressed. That is a simple matter of proper journalism.
JF: You know I do not disagree. I would not disagree.
AL: I mean Mike has raised the point that these are difficult times for all kinds of commercial media, not just Jersey. Everywhere in the world, you know, there is more and more pressure for things to go online. Neil has raised the issue of sort of new regulations coming in which may impact the sort of social media commentators' abilities to comment on things. So with these kind of pressures coming on, I suppose our sort of interest is will you be able to continue to do the work that you have done over the years, that you are doing now, that sort of highlights these ....
FO: It is the focus.
AL:... maybe not particularly popular issues?
JF: I am happy to give my thoughts on that. I mean, yes, I mean no one has ever told me what to write and what not to write. I know this has been suggested a lot in the public domain. But I have found in 20 years in the media in Jersey no one has ever told me to write something or not to write something. So I have never experienced that in terms of, you know, coercion. You know people have said, "I don’tthink you should bloody do that," or, "That's a rubbish story," and all that sort of stuff. But I do not care, you know?
JF: I am not bothered about that as long. As I judge it to be the right thing to do I will do it and no one has ever coerced me one way or the other. So that will just continue. That is not going to change for anyone or anything. From the Bailiwick point of view, you know, we are a regulated media. I think that is an important point that we do need to raise in these forums. You know, just as JEP is, we have a regulator who issues a code of conduct which we have to follow, which we do follow. So we have those parameters which we have to stick within, but in terms of editorial decision-making I am in a slightly different position to Andy in the sense that I am both the editor and the owner, so I do not have anyone in my ear telling me what I should and should not be doing.
RS: And a PR company.
AS: Do you ...?
RS: ... and, you know, when it comes down to trust, Andy, you are saying people do not like, you know, the Jersey Evening Post and the perception of they are not just a government mouthpiece and
everything like that.
RS: Your job is, in a way, by bringing out these stories and bringing abuse forward, whether it gets one hit, two hits, five hits, it does not matter. One hit or two hits is better than anything. But it is trust. Can people go to your door, knock on your door, and go, "You know what I want to sit down and tell you my story"?
RS: Well that is ....
FO: That is the answer that needs to heard loud and clear, "Of course they can."
FO: That is a recurring theme that we heard during the course of the Inquiry and that we have been hearing in the last two weeks.
FO: And that is why in part we are grateful that there is some trust that you are at least sitting round the table.
RS: Absolutely, well you have to.
NM: But I think I said to you when I gave evidence the other day, you know, the latest social survey showed that only 33% of the population trust the mainstream media, and I know Andy is heading away from that. He has said, you know, they need to gain the trust and everything, but what are they doing to gain that trust? But also I just want to pick up what James said just quickly, if I can?
NM: Is because, you know, they will say, "We're regulated." Now I mean I watched, I do not know how many hours, of the Leveson Inquiry and the rest of it, you know the Milly Dower, the bugging of dead children's phones, the destroying of Christopher Jefferies' life, the lying of the Hillsborough ...
NM: ... that was all a regulated media.
MD: I think I know the fact (inaudible) as far as the JEP is becoming more like social media in the way it is presenting itself because it has a lot of non-judgment ....
MD: Well you do, you encourage people to write in without a name and ...
More and more it is becoming that an FOI is an investigative journalism. That is about the level of it now unfortunately, and what Andy was saying about the restrictions coming out of the government under the restrictions of the information coming out of that ties in that the government is more and more controlling. It is shame that the official media, or the accredited media, does not give a ... we do not get press releases. You know if there is a press conference we are not invited. Why not? I wish the press, I wish the media would say, "Look, make it available."
SC: But that issue of trust in the media, I mean I guess that has always been around. But probably if it is 33% it is probably a bit higher than it is for politicians.
SC: You know that is a really issue for us in terms of that.
AS: I think there are two things. There is definitely a lack of trust in some quarters on this subject in terms of JEP.
AL: Although, you know, the way to counter that is to, as we have done a number of times, to publish the reports and the accounts of people who will speak to us.
AS: Also I mean I do not want tit for tat with anybody over here, but actually you know you are ....
MD: It is not about that.
AS: No, no, I know. Your mediums are focal points for abused people, for people interested in the subject. Now, you know, I do not happen to read the blogs very much. I just do not. But I do know when I go on those sites that a vast majority of the comments come back to the "filthy rag." But no, no, let me speak, let me speak. And actually that creates a context in which that trust is undermined irrespective of what we do, and that is unhelpful. So if this is about a new era of trust I applaud your platform to give people a voice, but equally it is not very helpful. And you know sometimes that actually we do quite a good job and to be fair he says that, and then the wave of abuse that you get... but I am just saying we have got to be very quick.
FO: Yes. But one of the important things, as we come to an end, is communication and the very fact that you are communicating these issues today is building that foundation, in my mind, for trust, and I see several people nodding. This is the start.
RS: But, you know, just on the blogs. I know he has made the comments and it can get a little ... but the most important thing we did on the blogs, and that is all the blogs in Jersey, is we published the evidence, the leaked documents that were given to us. They did not go to you. They came to us and we did the service and we put them out.
RS: So, you know, that is important and that is why people came to us. It is not what is in the comments. People come right up to me, comments were like, "Phhh," you know? It was what we were publishing and why we had to publish it and why people came to us.
RS: I do not ever want to be put in that position again so I expect you guys to step up.
AS: But the evil MSN is a part of your notice and is bound ... RS: Yeah, that that is schoolboy stuff.
FO: Alyson, yes?
NM: ... bridges need to be, you know, built here as well I think. There is still that element of the traditional media and bloggers. They know that bridges do need to be built there. I mean I could say back to Andy when I go on there and see, you know ...
RS: I have got no problems with Andy (inaudible) with JEP, talking about it.
FO: I can see from the body language that that process is starting. AL: I think too it is ...
RS: I think this is a start, I mean, I’ve never sat down with James or Andy like this before and, you know, I think that is a way forward. I think it’s an absolute shame that not all of the media are here, the BBC and (inaudible).
RS: I can’t understand why, but that’s (inaudible) ...
AL: Sorry, can just say the BBC had the choice of either sending someone or reporting on it and they’re reporting on it. So, yeah.
RS: But yeah ...
FO: But anyway, back to the point. Back to the point, because I’ve only got a few more minutes.
RS: My opinion of the JEP today is not the same as it was two years ago, three years ago, to Andy’s credit that when he took over he’s definitely brought it on. There is a change, I would not sit here and lie and go,“Oh, you know ...” the fact that I don’t read it has got nothing to do with, it’s definitely ...
RS: Yeah, my mum reads it every day and it’s definitely, it’s coming on. And that’s because Andy’s taken it and he’s taken it in a new direction and obviously he’s letting them have a but of a free reign. And that’s, I’m well happy with that. So I don’t want it ...
FO: Yes, thank you, Neil.
AS: There’s debate about issues in a fair robust discussion of issues and downright unnecessary unhelpful abuse. And we’d agree that is ...
FO: Yes, I think so.
NM: Yes, where does that line end? That’s the question. Where is that line? Where does it stop? Where does it start and more importantly where does it stop?
JF: It’s very difficult to, kind of, define, isn’t it? I agree, there’s no quick answer to that (inaudible).
MD: A bit like Mrs Thatcher, you’re trying to introduce harmony into the proceedings. Mrs Thatcher did absolutely the opposite I’m afraid. And unfortunately I’m a political person, I read the JEP but I don’t write to it anymore. I used to be a regular contributor on the letters page and I became, my name was Mike Dun, long term critic of Jersey. That’s what the JEP used to call me. Now that, it may now sound very ... and I thought it was a bit funny at the time. But it has, it implies an establishment alignment which was then and it still is, guiding the media in this island. There is, ultimately, an alignment with a certain establishment point of view and I find myself in disagreement with that. One of the reasons I blog is not to (inaudible) necessarily to express, I want to express my view and it’s in disagreement. So your idea that you have harmony and lack of dissent, no, I don’t think so. I think I want dissent, because unless these guys are going to change their views on the finance industry radically and start being more critical of what goes on in those sort of things and childcare and all the rest of it, unless they’re going to present a more challenging point of view, I will be a dissenting voice.
JF: Again, I think the issue is though, Mike, that the position Andy and I are in which is everyone thinks we’re wrong. So you think we’re wrong because we’re establishment mouthpieces, establishment think we’re wrong because we’re tabloid, sensationalising ...