By G.A.Ponsonby
A new attack line has emerged in the independence debate.   The target of this new line of attack is citizen journalism.
Just over a week ago during First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson attacked First Minister Alex Salmond, accusing him of selectively quoting from a “letter he found on the internet” to back up his case on EU membership of an independent Scotland.

Davidson claimed Salmond had chosen to “Google a pro-independence website” rather than read from an official letter given to Parliament.

The communication quoted by the First Minister was from an EC official and was revealed by Newsnet Scotland in October.  It challenged claims being made by people like Davidson who insist that a newly independent Scotland will be thrown out of the EU.

Davidson’s attempt to discredit Newsnet Scotland followed similar comments from Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who said: “It seems Salmond is basing Scotland’s future on his ability to Google.  What other parts of the White Paper rely on random websites?”

Lamont added: “The fact is we do not know who wrote the original letter or what they asked because Alex Salmond pulled the letter off the internet.”

The Daily Record joined the attack on this apparently subversive website by labelling it “crackpot”.  This weekend Sun journalist Kevin Schofield implied anyone praising either Newsnet Scotland or former BBC presenter Derek Bateman were unworthy and would be “unfollowed” by his twitter account.

The attacks on Newsnet Scotland by a pro-Union newspaper and the attempts to discredit the site by Lamont and Davidson in the Scottish Parliament no less, signal an unhealthy shift in the independence debate.

It’s a shift that seeks to portray as unworthy, articles and views published by online outlets that operate a pro-independence editorial line.

Davidson and Lamont’s attempt to attack the Scottish Government after the First Minister highlighted the letter which was revealed by Newsnet Scotland was of course picked up by a traditional media, itself keen to discredit pro-independence citizen journalism.

The Guardian’s Scottish correspondent Severin Carrell wrote of the letter episode:

“But the significance of that disclosure was quickly undermined after it emerged that Salmond’s aides had downloaded the letter from a nationalist website, Newsnet Scotland, and had not been officially sent that opinion by Brussels.”

Salmond’s aides did not download the letter, which was sent to them as a PDF attachment by Newsnet Scotland.

However Carrell’s claim that the significance of a communication, that has been confirmed as valid and whose contents challenge claims being promoted by Unionists, is somehow discredited because it was revealed by Newsnet Scotland is – from a journalist – is quite bizarre.

Would the communication be more significant merely because it had been revealed by the Herald for instance or the Scotsman?  How would Carrell view such a communication if it were revealed by the Huffington Post or the Scottish Review, both online sites?

The letter’s validity should have been the only thing concerning any self-respecting journalist.

Notable examples of citizen journalism reporting from major world events are, the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 2013 protests in Turkey, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  Would Carrell claim that these reports were undermined because they were initially the result of online citizen journalism?

Carrell’s view of pro-independence online journalism was probably best captured in this embarrassing interview he gave on Newsnight Scotland after another pro-independence website had faced threats of litigation.

In the interview he says: “There’s a clash between the way that professional journalists and news organisations would operate and the way in which campaigners (sic) are operating.  And the campaigners perhaps haven’t quite had the experience, knowledge and legal advice that may have prevented some of the problems they are now encountering.”

It should be noted that no legal action was ever taken against National Collective, nor has there been any taken against any of the outlets Carrell indirectly referred to.

However the news organisations he lauded in his interview presumably includes the BBC who this week is revealed to have misled viewers over an interview given by Irish Minister Lucinda Creighton in January.  Indeed the overwhelming amount of misinformation that is infecting the independence debate comes from these so-called professional journalists, much of it deconstructed and exposed by another pro-independence site Wings Over Scotland.

The BBC Trust ruling was exclusively revealed on Friday by Newsnet Scotland but has, thus far, been ignored by the professionals.  Perhaps that ruling is now also undermined because it was exclusively revealed by non-professional journalists.

Citizen journalism has been defined as that which was once the audience now becoming the reporter.

It remains to be seen what impact ordinary citizens can make in this independence debate.  One thing is for sure though and that is that sites such as Newsnet Scotland are now players and as such are deemed legitimate targets by a pro-Union media and the politicians they support.


2013-12-21 16:52

Severin Carrell lecturing anyone on journalistic standards and integrity is hilarious.

I’d trust an article written by Steve Carrell before one of Severin’s…Steve tells jokes, Severin is one.
2013-12-21 17:27

Interesting. They’re resorting to attacking the messenger(s) as they’ve already lost the battle with the message itself. And citizen journalists are overwhelmingly on the YES side of the argument so they’re seen as an obvious target.

I have to say though that G.A.Ponsonby’s articles are always well researched and powerfully argued. He’s more than a match for any of the so called professional political journos working in the Scottish MSM.
2013-12-21 18:10

Newspapers like The Record, Scotsman, Herald will continue to demonise, ridicule and downplay websites such as NNS. What this means is that you are being noticed and these underhand actions are done through fear. But as their readership declines yours is growing ever larger and there will come a point when your voice will be louder than theirs.
2013-12-21 18:33

Heartily agree James01.

It all stems from the fear they have been sussed as lazy , disingenuous ,self congratulatory and useless to the customer.

May their demise be swift and sure.
2013-12-21 18:51

‘Citiz-journos’ have simply filled the vacuum left by the so-called pros who ignore and distort any items that doesn’t suit their agenda.
Deceit has become their truth.
2013-12-21 19:06

We all remember having our comments blocked on BWB if we mentioned this site it seems that they are really worried as we are getting the truth out to a lot more people and the likes of Carrell,Cochran  e and the rest of them are being found out.I came across this worth a look.

2013-12-21 19:10

Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. (source: wiki)

Replace “statistics” with “the mainstream media” and “numbers” with “propaganda” and it sums the situation up quite nicely.

Purchase no newspaper, pay no TV Licence, donate to NNS. Simples!
2013-12-21 19:11

I have a friend who is a full time journalist.He despairs of the standards now.He says they don’t write stories but rely on press releases and agency reports.
He is so right, how many times is a “story” clearly just a press release from the no campaign or one of the unionist parties.
Alex Salmond doesn’t have to do any research before FMQs ,he just waits to see what the BBC are talking about.
So more power to citizen journalism it has replaced the rubbish that “professionals” copy from their friends.
2013-12-21 19:29

It is hardly surprising that the whole of the MSM take these views, and while they bleat about professionalism  . Intelligence is not only their domain, in fact there is a case that collective intelligence is in fact true journalism, rather than their cosy world being the be all and end all of reporting. Our online sites are a source of real information, things that show unedited items unlike those of the MSM.
So strength to the whole of our writers/bloggers etc for they are a means for the people to defend themselves against appalling bias. Let us hope they will all become more important as they keep maturing. I say well done, and more of it, to all of them. They are appreciated by many.
2013-12-21 19:35

It strikes me, having played back the vacuous rubbish in the Carrell video, that he and the rest of Better Together are in fact confirming Gandhi’s encouragement to the supporters of Indian independence back in the 1940’s – “First they will ignore you, then they will mock you, then they will come to fight you, and then you win!”

Having failed to ignore us, they have now moved into trying to “mock” or discredit us. Phase three? To quote wee Wendy, “Bring it on!”
2013-12-21 20:11

The more the Unionists mention sites like Newsnet, WoS and National Collective, the more curiosity will be aroused in the public.
2013-12-21 20:32

What they also hate is being shown to be incompetent/biased by what they consider to be pseudo-journalists not worthy of the same attention as them. They are not used to dealing with a world when within a few hours of being printed their work is being deconstructed/disputed and at times ridiculed by these pesky citizen journalists, who are often better educated, more informed, and write considerably better than them. They can’t handle criticism and hope that by throwing around pejorative nomenclature that people won’t treat them seriously. The truth is that the readership numbers are very close, and in many ways sites such as NNS and Wings are ahead. If only we had a national daily prepared to take a pro-indy stance.
John Souter
2013-12-21 20:36

In essence what you have here is an admittance by a professional media employee that their concerned more by the possibility of legal challenge than they are towards exposing the truth.
From The Suburbs
2013-12-21 22:19

We should remember that it was the National Collective that exposed the background of the No campaign’s major donor Ian Taylor’s Vitol plc dubious activities when the supine Scottish mainstream press and broadcasters refused to criticise the No Scotland main donors who lived outside Scotland.
2013-12-22 11:35

The days are numbered for many of these newspapers and the BBC; it is insome ways sad that they are attacking the very people who would have supported them; ordinary members of the public who read the internet news sites.
There are bigger forces in Government in Westminster who are critical of the likes of the BBC and are looking for opportunities todismantle or have greater direct control of its content and direction.
When the BBC looks for support it won’t be there.
2013-12-22 11:48

The truth will have to be undermined by the unionists if the union is going to survive.

The problem for the unionists is that truth WILL out.

The excellent work done by NNS, Wings over Scotland, Bellacaledonia, Business for Scotland and all the other superb websites that are in support of independence is being found by more and more people all the time. This fact has the unionists in a panic.

You can expect many more attacks on the pro-indy sites over the coming year. They will look for anything they can find to try and discredit the online independence community.

As for Severin Carrell having the temerity to believe that he is a ‘professional journalist’ is laughable give some of the claptrap he has published in the last couple of years.
2013-12-22 15:43

According to The Sunday Herald JP and their despicable propaganda bogrolls are baling out of Barclay House.

Perhaps once Underbellly have finished with the glorified Garden Hut masquerading as Santa’s Grotto they could flog it of to JP.

It can’t be long now – He! He!
2013-12-23 07:13

In times past I’ve posted on a more measured and tempered approach toward the media. I was concerned for production staff in print and broadcast who may hold wildly different views to their management or publishing houses. I still do feel concern for them, but what’s being done in their name is wrong, pure and simple.

No more. The media can either wise up or pack its bags. The average punter has the means, the motivation and the voice in terms of the internet to hit back. We don’t need to accept what is being force fed to us anymore. We can check facts for ourselves and provide ourselves with a forum to challenge mainstream propaganda. Its growing and they don’t like it.


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