Saturday, 23 February 2008

O Ruth, Ruth!

How sad. Under the respectable mantle of The Times, Ruth Gledhill has adopted a culture of writing which is immensely damaging.

I say "writing" deliberately - not journalism - because her custom is to write according to agendas as she wants to see them and then put bits of factual information around the argument. Which means it's not news journalism but editorial writing. Ruth may not have been the architect of this hybrid but she embraces it fully. The parallel use of the blog accentuates this shift from journalism to opinion but with current newspaper styles and blog use it's not clear which is cause and which is effect.

What is clear is the overall consequence; Ruth effectively becomes the arbiter of all decisions and actions and, through her status by association with The Times, she becomes a Great Authority. With her perspective influenced by the editorial appetite for the provocative and adversarial, she also becomes dangerous.

Attracting attention through your work is bound to be gratifying, and the more controversial matter you manage to present, the more attention you will receive. Possibly your managing editor in particular loves it too. It takes a noble nerve to resist these allurements and stay faithful to the impartiality of true news journalism.

You can see and feel the harm from this, and that it doesn't truly serve the public interest when a person actively looks to construct a provocatively adversarial meaning.

How sad, then, that Ruth Gledhill manages to wreak such misery in those who try, with sincerity and courtesy, to provide for spiritual wellbeing in our society. I've no clues as to what Ruth believes about herself - whether she wants to mould opinion, or just provide information. But she appears to favour a campaign for unrest. And with a tap of her palm-top, Ruth is free to post her particular angle on a story, however slanted; and in today's fast-moving media she effectively has the last word. Thus she is able to inflict untold damage on decent initiatives and individuals.

So what?
Journalism in this country has few boundaries and continues to enjoy the attention of the public, giving journalism some authority; and Ruth has absolute right to freedom of speech about her personal perspective.

I'm grieving about the damage that comes from the hybrid Ruth has espoused.

English law provides for action against GBH; would that it provided the same for GSH - grievous social harm.

[This comment was largely prompted by some of Ruth Gledhill's recent work.

1. In the last couple of days her "Church of England donates cash to aid Muslim prayer" - with her own blog post on it apparently toned down after 3 hours live. (Is this apology anything to do with it? "nb have updated post and corrected errors, many apologies, ruth"). University news releases about the interfaith centre here and here.

(And what do you suppose would have been written if hundreds of thousands of pounds had been provided from Islamic funds for a beautiful mosque, and no money had been forthcoming from any part of the church for some kind of worship centre ... )

2. That interfaith building story was on 21 February. Yesterday in a piece about grim developments of the penal code in Iran Ruth gratuitously managed to include information about opinions on Rowan Williams' attempt to raise debate among lawyers about religious conscience under English law.

3. Her recent arrogant observations about the arrogance in the Church of England and Rowan Williams.

4. Evidence of the consequences of this culture of writing: an ex-marine in America has a blog ("Prepare to have your opinion of this war changed for ever") in which he's picked up Ruth's Thursday article and posted Church Of England Pays $500,000 To Appease Muslims. ]

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