32. Bad news, good news; but what is the truth?

Newspaper rack

British newspapers, accessed at http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/photos/the-guardian-newspaper?sort=mostpopular&excludenudity=true&mediatype=photography&phrase=the%20guardian%20newspaper&family=editorial on 11 January 2016

What is the truth and who can you trust to tell it these days?

  • Your partner?
  • Your solicitor or lawyer?
  • Your MP, SMP or MEP?
  • Your doctor or GP?
  • The BBC news?
  • Aljazeera
  • The daily or Sunday Newspapers

I just don’t know any more, and this poses dilemmas.

Aljazeera News

For those of you that don’t know, Aljazeera is an international news broadcasting channel that “…broadcast to more than 220 million households in more than 100 countries.”

and

“Al Jazeera Media Network has more than 4,000 highly experienced staff from over 70 nationalities, making our newsrooms the most diverse in the world.”

 

I have this ginormous dilemma. When I was first diagnosed with my stomach cancer (posh name: malignant, poorly differentiated, gastric adenocarcinoma) my superb consultant oncologist described it as ‘aggressive’ and that without chemotherapy (surgery was ruled out altogether – see Blogs 2 and 3), I might survive for only between 6 to 8 weeks (and this was 3-4 weeks after the CT scans and gastroscopy were carried out, on which this call was made). My fate was sealed apparently. I would be put on a programme of Palliative care, and that is what has happened. To me this is a much worse prognosis than being put on a programme of Curative care, even if this also only involved chemotherapy, initially. The fact is, I don’t know what a programme of curative care for my condition at my late stage (Stage 4, involving spread to lymph nodes and other structures within my abdomen) would look and feel like. But, I’d like to be proscribed it, for sure!

My dilemma is that after three cycles of the Combo Chemo cocktail of Epirubicin, Oxaliplatin and Xaloda (EOX) I appear to be improving (no or few very small lumps not detectable by palpation, albeit my own self-examination), and a stemming of severe weight loss (I now tip my bathroom scales at just ‘dead-on’ 9 stones). That’s 4 stones less than my weight last Christmas 2015, but at least it is consistent with equivalent stages in the cycle of Chemo, about 10-14 days after injection of E and O! Despite this and despite my direct request to be re-designated as a Curative Care Patient by Dr P this has been refused. That is my dilemma. I don’t see why this is such a problem. So what is my true situation? Personally, I’d prefer to know. I can take it (the truth), I am a big boy (or used to be), and I am one of those people who prefers straight talking and no bullshite! So, what then?

Let’s look at a different context, newspaper journalism, to discover more about the dilemma of discovering the truth. It’s topical so I thought I’d look at how two well-respected newspapers, the right wing supporter, “The Times” and the left wing supporter, “theguardian” both reported yesterday’s (Monday 11 January 2016) news headline of another Labour front bench member, Catherine McKinnell, resigning her cabinet position as Shadow Attorney General. The tone, positioning and degree of responsibility assigned to Jeremy Corbyn are compared with reference to short passages taken from each newspaper’s online article (truncated).

The texts from each newspaper and my commentary are presented as follows:

All text is in Calibri font

Headline – in bold font

News text – normal font

My comments – italicised font (and direct quotes are italicised and bold)

The Times

Headline, “Corbyn hit by new resignation from shadow cabinet”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team continued to fracture in the face of his disastrous reshuffle this morning, with the resignation this morning of his shadow attorney general.

The very first sentence (as well as the title of the piece – above) gives this away as an attack on the Labour Leader.

Catherine McKinnell wrote a letter to the Labour leader, announcing her resignation on account of “concerns about the direction and internal conflict” within the party.

This is factual, and pretty much reported in the same way by the Guardian too.

The decision came on the day that Mr Corbyn called for activists to be given a “big say” over Labour’s policy on the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent as he seeks to circumvent sceptical MPs.

Mr Corbyn’s reshuffle has sparked major unrest within the party, after the Shadow Culture secretary…

These two sentences once again have as their focus Mr Corbyn and highlight issues that portray Mr Corbyn negatively (“ …he seeks to circumnavigate sceptical MPs”; and “…reshuffle has sparked major unrest…”).

The rest of the article requires a subscription.

________________________________________________________

theguardian

Headline, “Shadow attorney general Catherine McKinnell resigns”.

The shadow attorney general, Catherine McKinnell, has resigned from Labour’s frontbench, citing “concerns about the direction and internal conflict” within the party.

The opening sentence focuses on what the MP has done and at least one of her reasons for doing it. The latter clause is reported neutrally and was of a similar tone in the Times reporting.

McKinnell was only appointed to the shadow cabinet last September and had not yet made her mark in the job. With three young children, the Newcastle North MP, who was first elected in 2010, said in a letter to Jeremy Corbyn she was having problems balancing her party commitments with family life.

This sentence implies that Catherine McKinnell may not be doing a great job and that other factors such as work-life balance are important to her in reaching a decision to resign. In my view, there’s a slight sexist tone in this reporting.

However, she also made pointed comments raising concerns about what she described as an “increasingly negative path” that the Labour party has adopted, which is likely to be seen as direct criticism of Corbyn and his leadership. She stressed her desire to channel her energies into representing the concerns of her constituents.

In this sentence the Guardian emphasises Catherine McKinnell’s view about what is negative (that she doesn’t like?) and only relates this by inference to Corbyn’s leadership role. And finally, the Guardian re-emphasises positive aspects of McKinnell’s decision to resign – to “…representing concerns of her constituents.”

More text is available in the Guardian article, but I have omitted it as I have tried to restrict the textual analysis to similar numbers of sentences and their location as the lead parts of each reporter’s article for their respective newspapers.

So, what would you conclude? Answers please in the comments section.

In my view, as a passionate labour party politics supporter, I am inclined to think theguardian’s version is nearer the truth (whatever that is). I believe this because I heard Jeremy Corbyn answering questions by Nick Robinson (of whom I am also a fan – normally!) on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4, “Today” programme.

Jeremy Corbyn

Tweet re Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn coming under fire on Twitter after his appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme, accessed at https://twitter.com/bbcnickrobinson on 11 January 2016.

Despite valiant attempts by Nick to ‘fill’ the air time and ask leading or multiple questions and then not actually giving Mr Corbyn the time he promised him to put his case on subjects of his choosing, Mr Corbyn stayed calm, answered the questions succinctly, without fluster or fuss and never once drew attention to Nick’s slightly (at least) naughty style as well as content. One – nil to Jeremy Corbyn.

Do any of the rest of you get the impression of a media conspiracy to discredit Labour generally, and Mr Corbyn’s leadership style in particular, for fear of a genuine awakening of the public, many of which are apathetic, appeased, natural labour-oriented supporters, but who are silent, non-voting members of society? They could wake up of course, and is this the “Establishment” fear?

Finally, is this conclusion the truth? Nope! It is my interpretation of all the data and information I collect, though filtered through my own values and philosophical approach. For example, I deliberately added “Mr” to Corbyn occasionally to soften the sentence and perhaps win you over – at least a little! So who can you believe? This is the nature of a dilemma!

Definitions of “on the horns of a dilemma”:

faced with the choice between two equally unpalatable alternatives;

in an awkward situation

Synonyms

between the devil and the deep blue sea;

between a rock and a hard place (informal); and

between Scylla and Charybdis

Collins dictionary

So what should I do when I next meet Dr P? Answers please – in the comments section!

See you again soon.

 

 

 

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