Archive for the ‘Deborah Orr’ tag
What good does it do for the police to keep the media informed? In the last week it’s become apparent that British and Portuguese policing methods are quite different. Where the British police are verbose – as in Ipswich last December, the Portuguese prefer to ignore the media unless there is a clear reason to get them involved – as seen during their investigation of the kidnapping of Madeleine McCann (see Thomas Catan in today’s Times). Is one approach better than the other?
The British police might argue that being as open as possible with the media means:
- You get help from the public to find the kidnapper/murderer / rapist
- You prevent unhelpful speculation
- You discourage media organisations from going directly to suspects / witnesses / victims (although how effective this is might be disputed).
In response the Portuguese police might argue that working closely with the media can:
- Be a significant distraction (how much time did Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull spend policing in Ipswich vs holding press conferences?)
- Lead to ‘trial by media’ (remember the Mirror’s virtual ‘confession’ from Tom Stephens followed by his arrest? He was later released without charge)
- Give the public a misleading impression of the scale of the problem and, as a consequence, fuel calls for unnecessary changes to the law
Once one takes the media route it’s difficult to retreat. And, as Deborah Orr describes so well in the Independent today, when one approach (that of the British media) meets another (the Portuguese police), it can lead to coverage that adds ‘nothing to anyone’s understanding of what has happened, or to anyone’s sense of what might happen differently in future’.
The media spotlight has paused briefly on the issue of maternity care. It’s an issue our new, interactive, experience-led news media is wonderfully placed to deal with. Here’s a subject everyone should care about and an experience which many women have been through.
This is borne out by some decent coverage. The Today Programme’s Listener Panel came into its own with stories from women with very different experiences of maternity care.
And the combination of experience and authority is threaded together in an excellent editorial by Deborah Orr in the Independent. Orr sets her own experience of childbirth (‘absolutely appalling’) in the much larger context of the declining number of specialist birthing units (from 527 in 1973 to 341 in 1996 to 282 in 2004), low relative UK birthweights and a poor infant mortality record (compared to the rest of the EU).
Orr’s piece, combined with the many actual birth stories, exposes how misleading Patricia Hewitt’s policy promise was yesterday. Hewitt pledged that, in future, women would get more choice in how they gave birth and that as a consequence many more would have the opportunity of a home birth (Radio 4 Today Programme).
But as a growing number of reports in the last few weeks have shown (e.g. see Rowan Pelling 10 days ago), without qualified midwife care choice is pointless. And there aren’t enough qualified midwives (Royal College of Midwives calls for 10,000 more).
Unfortunately Hewitt’s focus on the issue of home births distracted many from the substantive issue (see debate on Comment is Free, and Telegraph editorial).
This is an issue that the media can and should have an impact on. My hope is that the spotlight doesn’t disappear just because an eye-catching new policy has been announced.