Latest request contained within comment made on Rusbridger/Orwell thread –
10 November 2011 7:58PM
It’s at times like this, reflecting on the work of The Guardian and Nick Davies in particular, that I and many others I’m sure feel proud to be a long term reader and supporter of the Guardian which these days is something to hold onto as we seemingly head into more turbulant times.
“We decided to change all that at the Guardian back in 1997 when we appointed an independent readers’ editor. What better way to resist interference – including by a PCC successor – than demonstrating that we take the responsibility of correction and clarification seriously?”
Here Mr Rusbridger I am afraid I would have to take umbridge with you as although on the face of it the reader’s editor may seem like a good idea, in practice it is proving not to be so.
There are various issues at the moment that Guardian and CiF commenters would like addressed and as advised I tried to pursue such matters on the pages of CiF and the reader’s editor but to no avail. Funnily enough I was looking through an old thread from June located on the Guardians Work:Life Unum section which voiced concern over that page and noticed that I mentioned that I had in fact written to the readers editor voicing readers concerns over the Guardian/Unum joint sponsorship deal and the ethics behind it – but a reply was never received.
The thread and readers concerns are located here and make for very interesting reading……
Sadly none of the readers concerns have ever been attended to by the reader’s editor or even the editorial staff and they have not lessened over time simply deepened.
The other issue which again was sent to the Readers Editor and many other places too was the request by readers to be able to have some form of open debate on the Guardian to address various concerns that we felt were always being ignored including concern about the reporting of welfare and disability issues and other matters that needed as you put it correction or clarification. However again no reply was received and thus a campaign was started to try and resolve some of these issues – the CiF Peterloo campaign which has now developed into #OTMPeterloo in order to intensify the campaign as our concerns although eventually acknowledged by yourself remain unattended to with the opportunity of an open debate being promised in the future but very vaguely so and so the campaign continues on.
But putting all that aside for one moment and relating it back to what you are saying here – we do need something more than the readers editor as the excuse I eventually got back was that they had to deal with hundreds of such e.mails a week. So I would suggest that you look to something more and if you want to keep it in house then what better than a regular open thread where readers and editorial staff alike can openly discuss concerns and for once feel as if we are being listened to which in the long term would be for the good of all I’m sure you’d agree.
So in your further deliberations with your fellow editors and the like maybe that is something that can be considered too – moreso in this day where mutualisation is supposedly to be the next best thing with commmenters and staff engaging and co-operating more both above and below the line. It seems the way things are heading so how about it?
But in the meantime once again many thanks to you, The Guardian and Nick Davies for all the work undertaken over the phone hacking affair. Much appreciated and I do hope you will think carefully about attending to the problems many commenters have highlighted on your pages involving the Unum/Guardian partnership, the feeling by many that the paper is failing to report adequately disability/welfare concerns and issues and an overall general feeling by some readers that the editorial stance taking at the last election is still playing a part in how things are reported. There are other issues too but if you could provide us with a forum such as an open thread instead of or alongside the work of the reader’s editor I’m sure it would make many happy and as I said before be for the good of all.
E.mail sent to Mr Rusbridger 17th October 2011 –
Subject: The Peterloo Avatar Campaign
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2011 09:49:38 +0100
Dear Mr Rusbridger
I have just noticed a reply you gave me on Cif on the thread following the Guardian/Ipod app. piece you wrote and would like to reply to it here in this e.mail as it relates to a far bigger issue too.
I agree the coverage of health matters has been fairly widespread and there have been worthwhile articles with Polly Toynbees standing out above the rest for their indepth analysis and abillity to see things as they really are.
Hoewever I, and many others, cannot agree that the editorials on health matters have in any way supported the campaigns against the changes that have and will be taking place, in fact at best they are vague and at worst pro-coalition – one in particular comes to mind with the comments following it clearly illustrating the frustration many feel over the Guardian’s continuing backing of the Liberal Democrats…….
The two editorials this month are starting to scrutinze the plans more and I for one and many others too have noticed this change but still we await your realisation that the Liberal Democrats have in effect moved further to the right as there term in office has progressed and to some are now considered to be conservatives in all but name. Through the paper’s continual backing of them – as you haven’t stated anywhere that you don’t – many are sceptical of your approach towards and coverage of various news items and features and would like to put their concerns to you about this and other matters in an open thread online on CiF if this is at all possible, possibly in the form of a question and answer session as has been done before on other matters.
There is a campaign you may have noticed going on on the pages of CiF at the moment called the Peterloo Avatar campaign which has come about because readers/Cif commenters have felt that our many requests for such an online debate have not been answered and out of frustration are carrying out this campaign. This latest request sent to the You Tell Us thread will explain all……….
Latest message to Guardian CiF staff from Peterloo Campaign….13.10.2011.
Can we address the matter of allowing there to be an open debate on Cif between commenters and editorial staff with reference to the stance of the paper now with relation to the Liberal Democrats – where commenters/readers can put forward their views and try to understand what in fact is the editorial position and air their concerns.
This is what has happened so far:-
Various requests have been placed on these pages during the past year requesting a debate – the most recent two during the past few weeks . All of which we were told have been passed on to the editorial staff for consideration but no reply was ever given. As nothing was forthcoming various posts were made on Editorial threads direct to the Editor and leader writers over the past few months expressing our views but again to no avail.
An e.mail was sent to Liz Forgan, Chair of the Scott Trust Ltd containing all this information with an outline of perceived problems and an examples of an editorial and thread full of commenters disallusioned with what they were reading. She then replied to say that the Scott Trust does not interfere with editorial matters which as it should be but that we should send our concerns and request for debate to the Readers Editor and discuss such matters on CiF.
Two letters were sent to the Readers Editor on the 12th June 2011 and 29th June 2011 and no relpy was received. Further more all of this was mentioned directly on the readers editor thread here on CiF on a couple of occasions again to no avail.
So what to do?
Shall we return to Liz Forgan and tell her we followed her advice but nothing came of it and now have had to resort to a campaign to try and get a reply? A campaign which is being censored at every stage and requests for information about it not being able to be answered because such information is being deleted.
So now we are here debating matters iwith you here on You Tell Us but our requests for an online debate so all concerned commenters can participate is still being ignored. All we ask is for you to look again at the communication given to You Tell Us staff the other week – take it to the Editorial staff and give us a reply – please.”
This is the stage we are at now – and I hope through this opportunity in ‘speaking’ with you direct you can at least consider our requests and discuss this further and give us your thoughts. If you haven’t in fact seen the correspondance that we asked the You Tell Us staff to forward to you could you please ask for it as it explains what the campaign is about in more detail and our requests too. We are not out to cause any trouble we just want our voices to be heard and to be shown some respect for our concerns as long term and hopefully valued readers.
Thanks for your time – I realise you are very busy – but it is of the upmost importance to us and we would be grateful if you could give us a reply to our request for an online debate as soon as possible so we all know where we stand on the matter. We simply want clarification on where the Guardian stands with regard to the Liberal Democrats and our concerns noted and acknowledged and various related questions hopefully answered too.
Patricia Hughes on behalf of the Peterloo Campaign team and followers.
Mr Rusbridger’s reply
Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2011 17:10:10 +0000
Subject: On behalf of Alan Rusbridger – The Guardian
Dear Ms Hughes
Thank you for both your correspondence and for your patience in waiting for a response to your concerns about the Guardian’s stance regarding the Liberal Democrats. As I said in an open thread just before the 2010 election, the Guardian is the only national newspaper with no proprietor and is free from any party political allegiance. At the moment of an election we will nail our colours to the mast for what we think, based on the Guardian’s values, offers the best hope to the country (and since 1945, we’ve come out for all three main parties) but thereafter it’s our role to scrutinize those with power and influence and to offer the best analysis we can of their plans and actions.
The paper’s stance on any issue is found openly in the leaders’ columns and beyond that page columnists write as they think; there is no “line” our journalists have to take and we are proud to welcome a greater range of contributor opinion than, I believe, any other newspaper. Just as importantly we offer no shortage of ways for people to challenge what they find in our pages in print and online. Readers have the opportunity to share their views on each and every leader, as well as columns on Comment is free, which over the past five years has become a vibrant hub for debate and dissent. As you know, Polly Toynbee addressed the issue of the Guardian’s support for the Liberal Democrats only a month or so ago (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/16/labour-lib-dems-future-pact?INTCMP=SRCH) and more than 700 people responded.
I note what your group is saying about what it perceives to be a “continuing backing of the Liberal Democrats”. It’s subjective of course but I’ve done a quick review of all the leader articles published since the one to which you refer in May 2011, and of the 11 that significantly concern the Liberal Democrats, none — even where they give due credit — could be described as offering unalloyed approval. They variously strike notes of concern, discomfort, an urging to do better, or direct criticism. One is perhaps neutral.
I hope this helps explain the position as I see it. Your continuing thoughts on this are always welcome whether in debate on Cif and elsewhere on guardian.co.uk or directly to me. We’d prefer, however, not to launch an open thread at the moment, simply because there are many important issues readers want to discuss with us and we’re currently exploring a new “open” initiative for making this happen.
Reply from Peterloo Campaing to Mr Rusrbidger’s e.mail.
Subject: RE: On behalf of Alan Rusbridger – The Guardian
Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2011 19:54:09 +0000
Thank you for your reply and taking the time to consider the points we have raised.
I have to tell you that I personally am disappointed with your reply as I do think if you had agreed to an open thread/question and answer session it would have helped matters greatly and enabled people to, for want of a better phrase, vent their frustrations, to what many still do believe is a perceived biasedness towards the Liberal Democrats and what seems to be a more centre right political stance compared to the paper’s position in the recent past. Also I am afraid your analysis and perception of the way you are percieved with regard to the editorials/leaders differs greatly from a number of readers although I cannot speak for every reader I am just basing it on what I read in the comment pages, on the editorial threads and elsewhere within Comment Is Free.
There are also various readers who specialise in certain areas who continually question the coverage in particular of disability issues, welfare policy and the treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable in society and are far from satisfied if not openly hostile I’m afraid to what they believe is a very one sided approach the newspaper takes over these issues and the lack of scrutiny and investigation these issues are given and subsequently the disservice you are not only giving to those who are suffering at the hands of the government at the moment but also the disservice you are giving your readers. As I said these concerns along with others regarding, for example, the paper’s moderation policy, sponsorship arrangments, for example with UNUM which is very worrying to many and various matters that other readers would have taken up themselves with you could have been channelled through a question and answer session/open date which I personally think would have served all sides well and enabled the paper and its readers to move forward more in unison with a better relationship to speak of in the future.
However now it seems that that cannot take place and I know many will be as disappointed as I am and will feel they are being ignored and their voice and their opinions sidelined too, which may be what you want anyway with the direction the paper is heading in as many feel that this move to the centre right will only be further cemented with your move into the American market and the hope I should think that you can remove any possible traces of what could be seen as a ‘radical’ edge which may frighten off some of your American advertisers or sponsors. I know this may seen fanciable but it is a belief that is doing the rounds at the moment and now probably will increase further.
I’m sorry Mr Rusbridger but I and others do believe you are continuing your initial support of the Liberal Democrats as we never see any direct questioning of their stance and policies to the politicians involved and you seem to treat them with a form of reverance and light touch which many feel results in you not giving them or this government the scrutiny or investigation it deserves.
I will acknowledge that you are beginning to look more deeply into the policies and initiatives the government are now involved in and a good exanple of that would be Tom Clarke’s article today which was warmly received – however as I mentioned in my comment on that thread – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/george-osborne-benefits-cheat?commentpage=2#comment-13137452 – there is still that gap where you do not raise those issues with the politicians directly themselves and many would prefer you to start asking the questions that need to be asked rather than simply reproduce facts and figures without following them up with interviews and your continuing inability to do this does make many think that your relationship with those politicians is far from neutral. Mr Clarke did respond to my comment and agreed the Liberal Democrats should be questioned but did not say you would rather just repeated your reference to luke warm editorials which fail to question rather simply give a slight slap on the hand which proves nothing. And yet again I repeat such matters could have been debated further and in a better manner on an open thread but unfortunatley now seemingly not.
So I will pass on your letter to the rest of the campaign group now to deal with as it is now out of my hands and will be dealt with on a group basis as to what direction we feel as a campaigning group, which represents part of your readership, we should take.
I will emphasise that you are currently ‘exploring a new “open” initiative’, whatever that may mean, when I release the latest campaign update but in the meantime our campaign will carry on until then to continue to make you aware of what we feel is a percieived biasedness in some of your reporting and dealings with the current government and other problems your readers have highlighted too.
Thanks again for your time – I am just sorry you could not have arranged the open debate we were hoping for and that the concerns I raised above will continue on and probably even deepen now that any way of addressing them has been pushed to one side. Feel free to contact me directly in the future should you feel the need but until then I do wish you the best as a long standing reader and supporter of the Guardian and sincerely hope the paper can return to be a representative of the voiceless in society as it was over many past years but sadly we feel not any more.
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