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The time machine

Posted on June 17, 2012 by

We’ve been getting very confused today by the (New) Sunday Herald. Last night the paper’s “Investigations Editor” Paul Hutcheon tweeted that this morning’s edition would carry an “exclusive” on how a psychologist was telling the SNP to avoid using the word “independence”. Mr Hutcheon was clearly pretty excited about this breaking story, as he plugged it again a few hours later, and has gone on to tweet about it no fewer than 31 more times (figure correct at time of writing) during the course of the day.

But weirdly, this great “exclusive”, rather than being splashed all over the front page as you might expect, didn’t manage to make the online edition of the newspaper at all.

The only place it can be read online, so far as we can ascertain, is on the blog of the Herald’s political editor Tom Gordon. There is, however, a totally different story on the same subject on the Herald website, although the paper oddly declines to draw any sort of attention to that one either – it’s completely absent from the front page or any section index pages, and cannot be found directly through the website.

(The only way to read it, other than being given a link to it by someone, is to somehow already know what’s in it and type some distinctive words from it into the Search box.)

But when the Investigations Editor is making such a big deal of it (the paper’s own Twitter account had also trumpeted it late on Saturday night), why would the Herald be shyly hiding such a dynamite exclusive away from its online readers – including those who pay for a subscription to Scotland’s only paywalled newspaper?

Could it be because it’s a repeat of a story the paper had already run back on the 8th of January this year, also credited to Mr Hutcheon, and which no other paper apparently thought interesting enough to bother covering? (Perhaps because it basically amounts to “party attempts to run campaign in way which will help it win”, shock horror.) Sadly, we have no way of knowing. If only we had some hotshot reporter to investigate it for us.


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16 to “The time machine”

  1. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    PS It’s interesting to note that the Tom Gordon blog version of the story claims that “The dramatic shift [of banning the word “independence” in favour of “an independent Scotland”] has already been adopted by Alex Salmond and others at the top of the SNP”.

    Evidently nobody thought to tell John Swinney (who you’d imagine would come into that category), as his piece in today’s Scotland On Sunday uses the word “independence” no fewer than five times:

  2. Peter Curran

    I thought the story mattered. In fact I thought it mattered before it was a story. I don’t understand the missing online bit either, as I said in my blog. But then, I still believe in buying newspapers.

  3. Completely Anonymous

    [post deleted at author’s request]

  4. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    For any viewers interested, Peter’s blog on the subject from January can be found here:

    (Just in case anyone thought it was an innocent timestamping error by the Herald.)

  5. Peter A Bell

    Not so much a repeat as a rehash, I’d say. I’ve seen things like this quite a lot of late. There was one occasion when Severin Carrell had at least five pieces on the same topic in the same online edition. I can’t remember what the topic was or what Carrell had to say about it. Which gives a clue as to how much of an impression he made on this reader. But creating an impression is what it’s all about.

    In truth, the only purpose of this particular “story” is to provide an opportunity for a few anti-independence rent-a-quotes which can then be picked up and parroted in the social media by the Britnats’ rag-tag “army” of amateur propagandists. Nothing really untoward about that. Pro-independence campaigners do similar stuff. Although there is a decided difference in the tone and quality of the messages being promulgated – with nationalists being markedly more positive.

    What is striking here is the hypocrisy and double standards involved in being so sneeringly critical of SNP campaigning techniques while employing tactics which are no less propagandistic.

    Or perhaps the unionists quoted genuinely don’t comprehend the importance of language in communicating a political message. This would certainly explain their inability to mount a credible campaign.

  6. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    You may well be thinking of this Severin Carrell episode:

    But while there’s nothing all that unusual about rehashing an old story, it’s pretty odd to make such a song-and-dance out of it being an “exclusive” and then tweet about it all day, but not have any route to it from the website.

  7. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Or perhaps the unionists quoted genuinely don’t comprehend the importance of language in communicating a political message”

    That seems unlikely, given that the Gerry Hassan “separation” incident occurred this very weekend…

  8. Peter A Bell

    Thanks for the reminder about the Severin Carrell “obsession”. It did come back to me after I’d posted. That tends to be the way my memory works these days.

    Fair point about the tweeting. It may be an attempt to bulk out an otherwise rather thin campaign.

  9. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “But then, I still believe in buying newspapers.”

    If you want to direct me to any Bath stockists of the ink-and-paper Sunday Herald, I’m all ears…

  10. Tearlach

    This story was trailed on Radio Scotland’s Shereen’s programme this morning, but I do not recall hearing the detail – listening to her programme is like driving past a car wreck, you know that you should not look, but you have to slow down and have a peek…….

  11. Donal Carthlan

    Anyone else think this is yet more media bias in Scotland as apparently (if it’s true) the SNP dropping the word independence in favour of the phrase an independent Scotland is big news but the pro Unionist vote no campaign refusing to even use the word “Union” isn’t?

  12. Morag

    I read the story in the paper.  Basically it said that some marketing gurus had told the SNP to us the phrase “independent Scotland” instead of “independence”, because it resonated more positively with the listener.  Some people were receptive and others thought it was a load of pretentious bollocks.  Some cherry-picked quotes from party spokesmen were trotted out in an attempt to prove that this policy had been adopted.
    Given the tone of the headline, the article itself was a serious damp squib.  Maybe someone should ask Paul when he’s going to write an article on the standing orders to the unionists never to use the word independence?
    Come to think of it, maybe Paul is a fifth columnist, planting the story to make the word “independence” seem negative, and so encourage the unionists to give up on this “separation” malarkey.

  13. Stuart Winton

    To be fair to Paul Hutcheon the article linked to by Stu was findable via the Politics section on the Herald’s site, but oddly it was one of the secondary articles rather than the more prominent ones with the summary underneath. It’s currently at the top of the second column of articles and titled “JARGON TO VIEW VOTERS”. I had to look for it a couple of times and indeed for some reason I think the capital letters were part of the reason I missed it as well as its position.

    The article on Tom Gordon’s blog doesn’t seem to be on the Herald site, but perhaps that’s why he put it there. The Herald’s site generally updates  about 4am or so and doesn’t really seem to do much for the rest of the day, so perhaps those responsible for updating the site weren’t available and thus any ommissions couldn’t be rectified, so Tom Gordon used an alternative route to publish it online.

    And looking at the two articles I would assume that the reason they are different is because the main one – the one NOT on the Herald’s site – would have been accompanied by the linked secondary (shorter) article on the same page (or a double page spread) in the paper version (not sure what the technical term for that sort of layout is, but I’m sure there is one!).  

    Of course, the Herald’s website is quite well know for these errors and inconsistencies, so personally I would put it down to cock-up rather than conspiracy, although I’m sure there’s others who’d disagree!!

    But I’m glad Tom Gordon put the article on his blog because as someone who’s recently parted with £1.00 for my first month’s subscription I was thinking of asking for a refund!       

  14. Erchie

    Paul Hutcheon and Tom Gordon are like the Beavis and Butthead of Scottish Political journalism.

    You see them on Twitter doing theirequivalent of “hurr hurr” all day and wonder why the Herald is so inefficient as to need two planks of thatcalibre rather than the single Kenny Farquaharson the SoS manages with 

  15. jafurn

    My thought on this is that Mr  Hutcheon was practising lazy journalism here.
    I personally  had a  short twitter discussion with Mr Hutcheon on Wednesday as Mr Salmond was giving his evidence at the Leveson inquiry where Mr Hutcheon was castigating and  trivialising the FM during his evidence.
    I challenged him that he did not have to watch it.
    A sample of the exchange below..

     13 Jun Paul Hutcheon ?@paulhutcheon
    Next up at #leveson Salmond to reveal whether he prefers Godfather I or II
    13 Jun Jim  ?@jafurn50
    @paulhutcheon You do realise that you don’t have to watch it
    3:25 PM – 13 Jun 12 via web · Details
    Paul Hutcheon ?@paulhutcheon
    @jafurn50 I wish you were right, but I’m writing about it for Sunday
    3:30 PM – 13 Jun 12 via web · Details
    13 Jun jafurn50
    @paulhutcheon Well I thought that would be the case so why then your obvious ‘slant’ against Mr. Salmond. What about fair and unbiased?

    I think he was hoping to write something about Mr Salmond’s ‘fall from grace at Leveson’  but in the absence of any such story he reverted to rehashing an old ‘story’. The original ‘story’ was published in the Herald back in January (as stated above).
    This in my opinion is lazy journalism. Rehashing an old story and dressing it up as some sort of exclusive. The uniting thread between all of the ‘stories’ is a negative view of Mr Salmond / SNP and that I feel is the nub of the matter.


  16. Morag

    I remember watching Paul Hutcheon on Newsnight quite a while ago – I think it was during Wendygate.  He made it clear he hates all politicians with a fiery passion.
    At the time, he was the cybernats’ blue-eyed boy, because he was sticking it to Labour relentlessly.  It wasn’t just Wendy, he went after Jim Devine too.  It was fun and it was effective.  And at the time I thought, just wait till he goes after SNP figures, because he’s an equal opportunity politico-basher.
    He’s smart and he’s funny, but he doesn’t have a positive bone in his body.

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