Bandwagon jumping is something many of us media types are past masters at, depending on your point of view.
To our supporters, journalists seize upon the vital issues and keep them in the public domain for as long as is necessary, while our detractors argue that we don’t really care about anything and only keep stories going for as long as we think they will sell our newspapers.
Of course I am going to defend my profession – who wouldn’t? – and I generally believe journos enjoy nothing more than exposing the truth and, if that means keeping an issue going, then so be it. Of course there are some tales which remain in the public domain well past their sell-by date because it suits certain sections of the media – the recent Lib Dem sex scandal being a case in point.
In this instance, sections of the Conservative-supporting press kept pushing the story, days after everyone else lost interest, because of the Eastleigh by-election, where their lot were going toe-to-toe with their Coalition partners. This didn’t work as the Lib Dems won and the Tories came third. We haven’t heard a jot about this story since.
But the printed media is receiving a dose of its own medicine – perhaps more than it deserves. Maybe. For the past 18 months or so, sections of the tabloid press have, justifiably so, been on the receiving end of a tsunami of public condemnation for phone hacking and alleged illegal payments to public officials.
But now the ante has truly been upped and at least one newspaper is being described as ‘murderers’ by one vocal section of society. The alleged victim? A Lancashire schoolteacher who was found dead, just months after it was announced to parents of primary pupils that she had a sex change and would now be addressed as Miss rather than Mr.
Of course, there was immediately a significant media interest in this news – for a male teacher to transform into a female one, seemingly between terms, was unprecedented.
Perhaps the strongest point of view came from Richard Littlejohn – the acerbic star columnist of the Daily Mail – who strongly questioned whether it was appropriate for impressionable young minds to be exposed to such a scenario.
I read the piece but promptly forgot about it until late last week when Littlejohn and his paymasters were accused by an army of internet users of driving the 32-year-old to suicide and was held up as an example of why the press should be regulated. One pressure group is calling for the Right’s favourite writer to be sacked and has amassed 130,000 signatories.
Quite how ‘Quincy’ Campbell and his pals can conclude that this tragic young teacher was driven to taking her own life before an inquest is beyond me. Yes, the press has an awful lot to answer but we are not, despite what the bandwagon jumpers may claim, killers. Yet.