Politicians and the press: why we need to be each others’ critical friends

I used to speak to my paper’s local MP two or three times a week.

At one point, he said something which I found both reassuring and terrifying in equal measure.

“You know what I think about this, Paul. I’m happy for you to make up a quote and attribute it to me.”

The relationship between regional journalists and the politicians that serve their area is a delicate and complicated one.

Both are theoretically working for the common good, with a mission to celebrate and champion their communities.

Like all senior figures in the public sector, MPs will say something like: “We just expect you to be fair. If I’ve/we’ve got something wrong, we know you’ll hold us to account for it.”

Like all senior figures in the public sector, they don’t always mean it.

And God knows leading a public sector organisation today is nightmarishly challenging – and getting worse by the day. It’s not a barrel of laughs being an MP, either: your life is no longer your own, the hours are relentless, and your waistline and heart must feel under continuous attack.

The reason I could square the role of quote-writer to the political party veteran with my conscience was that I remembered far livelier conversations – often around election time, and occasionally involving stroppy silences that lasted several weeks.

I also recall being ambushed by that politician and a neighbouring MP from a different party on live TV. Both accused my paper of being biased. The fact that the allegations of bias directly contradicted each other gave me great pleasure. As always, if everyone thinks you’ve got it in for them you’re probably doing a pretty good job.

But despite that TV encounter, and despite those periodic spats, our relationship never descended into downright abuse.

Our paper was never described as ‘journalism with crayons’ or ‘shoddy’ – terms used by Teeside MP Emma Lewell-Buck and her husband Simon Buck in attacks on the Shields Gazette over its coverage of a boundary shake-up.

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I wonder how some of our past political disagreements would have played out on Twitter.

I was intrigued to see one of my home city of Plymouth’s MPs criticising the Herald over its coverage of both defence cuts and the cleanliness of the local hospital.

When I first read Johnny Mercer’s comments, I was tempted to put him in the same category as the Lewell-Bucks.

But I know he’s an interesting, intelligent, thoughtful character. And maybe there is slightly more nuance to his criticism. He’s certainly not critical of all journalism.

Having said that, I was glad to see reporters, former reporters and journalists on other Trinity Mirror titles defending the Herald’s corner.

Herald crime reporter Carl Eve wasn’t taking any nonsense about political bias in the regional media. Nor was he prepared to accept that the Herald has a glass half-empty approach to local life.

At least Mr Mercer is engaging in the debate.

That’s more that can be said for Sheffield MP Jared O’Hara who has vanished without trace after taking a period of sick leave in the face of criticism of some comments he made in the past.

There’s been some good coverage by the Yorkshire Post on all this, including some nice doorstepping of his office, which seems to have triggered his sudden decision to return to work.

As one of the commentators in a Twitter thread on the Mercer vs Herald debate acknowledges, MPs and the media should be each others’ watchdogs.

I like to think both are critical friends, honestly holding the other to account in good faith, and in pursuit of similar goals.

I made it a principle never to be friends with a politician on Facebook. But I don’t subscribe to the view that the only noble position for a journalist to hold is one of constant and suspicious attrition.

The best journalists and politicians realise that, even if they don’t always feel they need each other, their communities require both.

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Why I’m happy my licence fee is being spent on extra newspaper reporters

There are times when the jobs pages of the regional journalism website Hold the Front Page can be a bit of a desert.

Not this week.

Across the country there are well over 100 jobs on offer – a veritable Christmas feast of vacancies unprecedented in recent years.

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It would be lovely to report that the shareholders of Trinity Mirror and Johnson Press, along with the American owners of Newsquest, had had a blinding flash of inspiration and decided to reverse years of cuts in Britain’s regional journalism firepower.

But that’s not what’s led to this jobs bonanza. This Christmas present has come from the BBC: in other words, from you and I.

The idea of the BBC spending £8 million of licence-payers’ money on the salaries of reporters who will work for commercial media companies has been controversial.

Why should the BBC prop up private sector firms that have presided over the closure of titles and offices, and the removal of rafts of editors, subs and even reporters?

It’s a reasonable question to ask. But we are where we are, and it is what it is, as all our mothers used to say.

We have a shareholder or venture capital model which is on the ropes, we have audiences whose attachments to their communities can be fragile, and we have a media landscape where there is more competition for people’s time than ever before.

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And, importantly, the 150 reporters based in newsrooms from Teesside to Truro will not just be serving those companies’ titles and websites with stories from councils, courts and the NHS, but will also be providing content for the Beeb – and for other local news websites including some hyperlocals.

And never has the work of holding power to account been more necessary.

This week has brought a reminder of the tragedy that shames this whole nation, but which poses particularly awkward questions for regional journalism.

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This happened on our watch, on journalism’s watch.

The warning signs were there: in blogs that weren’t read, detailed council documents that weren’t analysed, and people who weren’t listened to.

That lack of coverage, of challenge, of curiosity, of contacts, of connections, played its part in the deaths of 71 people in an incident that should have no place in the year 2017.

But it’s a tricky business when newsroom web targets demand that each story gets at least 1,000 pairs of eyes – sometimes higher. Would some story about the variety of cladding used on a high rise tower have cleared that hurdle, and won an online audience?

There are times when that audience can appear to be our enemy rather than our ally. When – as my friends in Gloucestershire have seen – attempts to explain and bring to life a planning blueprint that will affect every family in the county seem to fall on blind eyes and deaf ears online.

And yet, there are beacons of hope, where journalists seem to have found that powerful sweet spot where public service journalism that makes a difference overlaps with storytelling that hits web targets.

I think of my friends at the Bristol Post, where great stories about individuals caught up in the nightmare of homelessness, and the recent gut-wrenching tragedy of the suicide of a girl from the city have captured hearts, minds and eyeballs.

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As the editor of one of its sister websites, Devon Live boss Patrick Phelvin so rightly said: “If it comes from the heart and is interesting then generally there’s an audience for it.”

I also look admiringly at the work of Sam Petherick at my old paper, The Bath Chronicle, who was shortlisted for a national award for his stories about overpaid vice-chancellor Professor Glynis Breakwell.

And once again I pay homage to one of the greatest journalists working in the regional media today, Manchester Evening News social affairs editor Jennifer Williams, whose coverage of issues from homelessness to hospitals and drugs to development always strengthens my belief that journalism can be a massive force for good in society.

 

All of these journalistic heroes are pursuing new stories, cooking up new dishes rather than reheating tired soufflés. As blogger Adam Tinworth so rightly said recently, in many ways there is too much journalism.

He wasn’t, we should stress, talking about truly local journalism: the coverage, challenge and storytelling that comes from working a patch or a specialism. That’s a skill that I try to put at the heart of everything that I teach, and I was hugely encouraged to hear an editor friend say she was bringing back patches at her papers the other day.

Of all those Cs I listed above, it is perhaps curiosity that is the most important. We spent an afternoon this week interviewing prospective students for our course and it was a joy to hear one say: ‘I want to know why things happen.’

As Guardian editor Kath Viner recently said, journalists shouldn’t just be asking the questions that everyone is asking – they should also pose the ones that no one else is voicing. That’s the key.

So I’m hugely cheered by the BBC investment, as well as by other initiatives where organisations making money out of other people’s journalism are beginning to give something back.

There are great things going on at Google, with its Newslabs work, and its recent funding of a string of regional journalism projects, including one to make court coverage more useful.

Initiatives from PA’s robot data journalism trials to the inspiring Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Local Bureau work  should also give us hope.

That surfeit of journalism that Adam was talking about isn’t at grassroots level.

And so what we need to ensure is that the BBC investment doubles down on the regional coverage of what goes on in the corridors of power around the nation.

These 150 foot soldiers in the battle to hold power to account need to complement what’s already happening, not allow existing political reporters to be shunted into other work.

We need more eyes, ears and noses to be stuck into unwanted places.

There’s a mantra I’ve been sharing in teaching sessions, at open days, in TV interviews, at interview days, and on outreach visits. I’ve undoubtedly said it here before, too.

But it can’t be repeated enough times.

If we get journalism right, we stop Grenfell Towers from happening in the future.

Get it wrong, and that sort of tragedy happens time and time again.

Main picture: Christine Matthews

Why we can’t go on together with suspicious minds

I saw a sight which took my breath away this week.

The view from the top of Cheltenham’s tallest building is nothing short of amazing.

It was well worth the effort.

But it wasn’t just negotiating the lifts and stairs that got me to the top, and to a really satisfying piece for GloucestershireLive.

I had to overcome a few suspicious minds along the way, too.

The manager of the building said she had always been wary of journalists. And she was keen for one of her colleagues to sit in on all my interviews with the building’s tenants.

I found myself explaining my motivation several times over.

I simply wanted to write a through-the-keyhole, behind-the-scenes feature on a landmark that everyone in Cheltenham knows from the outside, but few have ever seen from the inside.

It’s not quite GCHQ, but the Eagle Tower is intriguing.

I wasn’t interested in minor gripes over leases, and I wasn’t there to do a hatchet job.

And, by the end of my two visits spread over three hours, everyone had relaxed, and I was an old friend.

I didn’t take the initial suspicion personally.

But there were clear signs that the image of journalism is too often one of glasses being half-empty rather than half-full, and of a profession looking for trouble that isn’t to be trusted.

And here’s the thing. The less people feel the benefit of journalism, the more that perception will grow.

There is a real risk of a disconnect between journalists and the people they write about. We fear the unknown, and journalists have become the unknown.

Somehow we need to be talking directly to more of our community.

There are some beautiful and telling thoughts in this analysis by American journalist Ross Barkan on the future of the regional media.

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We have the quantity of communication, with more ways of getting in touch with audiences than ever before, and online readership numbers that theoretically dwarf any print record highs. But do we have the quality?

If people see, speak to, and know their local reporters, they’re going to be more ready to trust and value their work.

When I was a news editor, I used to spend most Thursday mornings with a reporter in a café or pub somewhere in Bath. Our ‘surgeries’ weren’t just a means to get stories, they were also a great way of meeting readers, and persuading them that journalists didn’t come with horns on their heads and cloven hooves.

The dangers of that gulf between journalists and their communities are all around us.

They’re writ large in the horror of Grenfell Tower, where newsroom cuts meant journalists were looking the other way as residents issued stark, prescient warnings over fire safety.

They’re there in the gut-wrenching bombshell closure of the Oldham Evening Chronicle: an 163-year-old daily paper that’s there one minute and gone the next.

And they’re there at the bus stops of my home city of Plymouth. It’s relatively trivial stuff in the great scheme of things, but my mum and dad are losing a bus service they rely heavily on.

They knew the axe was falling, but they’ve had to spread that news to many of their friends and fellow bus customers.

They knew because my mum gets the Plymouth Herald virtually every day. But she’s in a minority. Too many of that service’s passengers get on with their lives in blissful ignorance of community life, even though they may have called Plymouth home for decades.

We need a strong local media both to expose the kind of strategic complacency, cynicism and cackhandedness that lay behind Grenfell Tower, as well as to highlight minor but significant attacks on our quality of life such as bus cuts.

Never is the regional media’s role in binding communities together more important than in times of citywide crisis.

That might be the Manchester Evening News rising brilliantly to the challenge of covering terrorism tragedy on its doorstep. Or it might be the inspirational work of the Houston Chronicle over the biblical floods in Texas. There’s a nice line in this Washington Post piece on such coverage, too.

Think about finding a way to support local journalism. You never know when you might need it yourself.

If we’re not careful, more towns and cities will follow the depressing example of Oldham.

We must fight to stop newspapers and their websites joining post offices and churches as community assets that everyone wants to stay open but few will actually tangibly support.

There is no magic bullet here. We are in very difficult demographic, financial and cultural territory. And former South Wales Argus editor Kevin Ward isn’t wrong when he questions the default setting of cuts and more cuts adopted by the boards of directors of some regional media firms.

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But I’m not giving up.

There is hope to be found, with the example of a site in Denver in the USA one such beacon.

And the one thing I know is that the most successful and sustainable journalism is the journalism that is closest to its people.

The kind where journalists are so much more than faceless bylines, disembodied phone voices, and robotic Facebook posts.

Face to face, eyeball to eyeball – as well as on every social media platform – we have to keep on keeping on. With charm, with humour, with determination, with sensitivity, and above all, with a shared sense of community and humanity.

When it comes to our audiences, we need to move from Suspicious Minds to Always On My Mind.

And It’s Now Or Never.

Why Grenfell council mustn’t be allowed to meet in secret

I’ll let you in on a guilty secret.

I quite like politicians.

I think most of them do what they do for the right reasons.

And I know that the vast majority of their critics would run a mile from getting stuck into the thankless, tireless, tedious work that makes up a huge proportion of a councillor or MP’s lot.

But my defence of these volunteer public servants – and my ‘put up or shut up’ instincts – only go so far.

And the Grenfell Tower horror has shown what happens when politicians – along with the whole apparatus of public services – are allowed to operate without sufficient scrutiny.

The shrunken regional media have to take some blame for that, as I said in a blog last week.

A lot of heartbreaking horses have bolted, but journalists are now tenaciously shutting the stable door against further tragedies, with some great examples of investigative reporting, including this from Newsnight’s Chris Cook.

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It’s been a torrid time for Kensington and Chelsea Council.

The local authority will be one place where one of the bucks from the public inquiry will have to stop. The chief executive has already gone, and others – elected and paid – may follow.

I feel for the council’s staff, who include a cousin of mine working in a completely unrelated field, and no one could condone some of the abuse that has come both their way and literally to the doorsteps of some councillors.

But the authority has scored a massive new own goal today by deciding to ban the press and public from a meeting of its ruling cabinet tonight.

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The council says it has taken the decision because of the risk of ‘public disruption’, and quotes an obscure standing order.

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The notice about the meeting (guardian.com)

Of course it’s a legitimate concern.

And doubtless the police feel they have better things to do than referee a council meeting packed with grieving relatives and neighbours.

But this is the thin end of a very worrying wedge.

Any council could argue that the presence of the public at its meetings could be disruptive.

In some ways, that’s the point. The public should be disruptive, up to a point. They should be allowed to challenge their elected representatives, to make them feel uncomfortable at times, and to remind councillors who put them there in the first place.

And whenever the press are barred from council meetings, deafening alarm bells should ring.  There is no public disruption argument that can be used here, so we can only assume the council simply – and shamefully – wants to avoid bad publicity.

The reason this is particularly worrying is that, 30 miles down the M4, in Theresa May’s own constituency, the local paper’s legitimate journalistic efforts are being trashed by her own party’s councillors.

In some ways, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead councillors’ abuse of the Maidenhead Advertiser amounts  to little more than what in football would be dismissed as ‘handbags’.

But it – and that other royal borough’s behind closed doors policy – are symptomatic of something which is more than just disdain.

It’s playing fast and loose with one of the pillars of our democracy.

The very best organisations – public and private – welcome the disinfectant of publicity and scrutiny.

We should push back against those who use the fig leaf of disruption to make life easier for themselves.

If Grenfell Tower was a result of anything, it was an appalling lack of scrutiny, and a complete failure to listen.

The council needs to put up with a night of disruption to show that a new day has dawned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The media and Grenfell Tower: the good, the bad and the ugly

Just over a week on from the Grenfell Tower horror, it’s clear there are goodies and baddies.

Top of the list of those who have emerged with reputations enhanced are, of course, London’s firefighters, and their impressive chief Dany Cotton.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn showed some deft touches with a timely visit that saw him comforting relatives and demanding action. The Queen appeared to make light of Theresa May’s security worries by visiting the area, and caught the mood of the nation with an unprecedented statement last week.

And the people of West London have shown jaw-dropping community spirit in filling in some of the huge gaps left by the authorities on the ground.

Which brings me to the groups who haven’t covered themselves in glory: the local council, whose chief executive last night resigned, Mrs May, the housing trust which runs the tower, the building inspection regime, a host of contractors, ministers stretching back many years, and a political culture that prized dogma and penny-pinching over safety.

So in which camp do we put the media?

Well, it has to be a bit of both, as this excellent Buzzfeed article on local people’s mixed feelings explains.

Journalists have been able to tell the full story of this utterly man-made disaster in a way that has woken this country from a complacent slumber: highlighting raw suffering, amazing bravery, incredible generosity and criminal negligence.

But there have also been spectacular errors of judgement.

We’ll have to let IPSO decide whether the Sun really did get one of its reporters to impersonate a relative , although the paper’s statement of denial has the ring of truth to me.

The regulator will also have to take a view on the 1,500 complaints it has received about a Mail Online story naming the man whose ‘faulty’ fridge is alleged to have started the fire.

Mail Online – not to be confused with any national newspaper with a similar name, by the way – has sought to defend itself by saying no one could reasonably draw the implication that it was blaming Britain’s worst fire for generations on the man.

There’s an answer to that, and it rhymes with ollocks. 

With no buy-in from the man – he told Mail Online he didn’t want to talk, there was absolutely no justification for naming him in these unprecedented circumstances.

There are many, many people who need to be named and shamed over Grenfell Tower. A taxi driver from Ethiopia isn’t one of them.

The backlash against the story may have been intensified by the way in which this tragedy has allowed thousands of people to see the media go about its work for days on end.

Journalists have been exposed to very public questioning and criticism of their methods and their work – and not just at Grenfell Tower, as the BBC’s religious affairs editor Martin Bashir found when covering the Finsbury Park mosque terror incident.

There has been no hiding place for journalists – and nor should there be.

Some of the Grenfell Tower coverage may have felt insensitive, but there is a far, far bigger question for our industry to address.

A very telling piece in Press Gazette suggests that not a single newspaper or local news site covered the extensive warnings by residents at the tower over fire safety.

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Never has the phrase read it and weep been more apt.

The theme is echoed in an equally sobering article by journalist Grant Feller, who once covered North Kensington.

As I said in a blog last week, this mind-boggling horror that leaves us running out of appropriate words highlights the overwhelming importance of political journalism.

It can be deeply unsexy, deeply time-consuming, and deeply analytics-unfriendly.

Even with that most crucial and increasingly rare commodity of time, it’s not easy to sift out the wolf-criers and the serial whingers, let alone to find engaging ways of making the important interesting.

But it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that if journalists in West London had been allowed to spend more time making contacts, more time poring over detailed council agendas, and more time simply listening to real people, we might – might – not be where we are today.

I’ve spent too much time today poring over another document, the impressively wide-ranging annual Reuters Institute report on the media.

It looks at trust in the media, at the willingness of people in different countries to pay for their news (only six per cent in the UK do), and at the growing power of social media.

Essentially, it asks: What is the media for?

I tweeted this last week.

Belatedly, our politics is beginning to prove its worth at – when put together with the election result – what feels like a major turning point for our attitudes to austerity, deregulation and privatisation.

Now it’s time for journalism to prove that it, too, can learn the lessons of Grenfell Tower.

A mission for all journalists: to make politics matter

I was an expert for five and a half hours on Friday morning.

An expert in pretending to know what I’m talking about, that is.

Just a few hours after promising my wife that it was merely a case of whether Theresa May’s  landslide was just over or just under 100, I was BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s political pundit. Explaining why she’d dismally failed – both to achieve the majority she sought, but also to live up to my predictions and those of the pollsters.

Having missed the signs that May would be humiliated, I had another look into my crystal ball for my BBC friends: this time going to the opposite extreme.

“Ok, Paul, cards on the table,” invited presenter David Smith. “Will she still be PM by the end of the day?”

“No,” I confidently proclaimed.

Of course, she’s still at Number Ten, if only because no one else wants the job of dealing with the mess she’s created.

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Like Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, who masterfully seized on the phrase used against his Game of Thrones namesake, I clearly know nothing.

And perhaps one of the reasons I know nothing is that, despite living and working with young people, I underestimated them.

What was crystal clear from the polls was that, for Labour to progress, Jeremy Corbyn had to get young voters into polling stations.

Now, I am ridiculously fond of the young people who I teach, and who can amaze me with their work ethic.

But getting large numbers of 19-year-olds to be at a particular place at a particular time can be challenging.

Corbyn, however, has special powers. He was relying on a generation not famed for its reliability – and it almost worked.

The polls that predicted a May landslide did so because they assumed – understandably – that the youth turn-out would remain stubbornly low.

In actual fact, although the much-touted 72 per cent youth figure was a red herring, more reliable research by YouGov suggests the turn-out for 18 to 24-year-olds would have been 58 per cent: up from 43 per cent in 2015. There was also an unexpected decline in the turn-out among older people, and a 30something age group swing to Labour.

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Not only did the youngest voters turn out in greater numbers than ever before, they did so with greater purpose.

This was the Brexit Backlash. A generation which for the first time in modern history will be worse off than its parents making a choice that was both selfish and unselfish, responsible and irresponsible. Yes, they had an eye on tuition fees, and yes, they don’t really care where the money comes from. But this was also a vote to turn the tide of the erosion of precious public services. And this was payback time for June 23 last year: a day when millions of older and supposedly wiser voters participated in the biggest and most self-indulgent act of self-harm this nation has ever seen.

There were other things that those young voters didn’t care about: the right-wing media being one.

In a beautiful phrase in its leader column on Sunday, The Observer said the Daily Mail was ‘left firing analogue bullets in a digital age’.

And this time it wasn’t the Sun wot won it.

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This, I think we can agree, was the last death rattle of tabloid influence on general elections.

Some of the more thoughtful political journalists have admitted they were woefully off-target with their pre-election analysis.

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And there’s a good piece from Grant Feller accusing media commentators of being out-of-touch, middle-aged, males. To which I reluctantly plead guilty.

My favourite regional political journalist, the wonderful Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News, has also been mildly berating herself, despite she and her paper having the Manchester Arena horror to deal with mid-campaign.

With wise words on the need to reinforce political journalism’s value and credentials, Jen says at the next election, she wants to ‘spend ages and ages talking to voters.’

At the opposite end of the country – in my home city of Plymouth – is a man who comes a very close second to Jen, The Herald’s Sam Blackledge.

When he wasn’t writing brilliant blogs about Theresa May’s hollow soundbites  he was making it his business to talk to voters all over his city.

I’m more than 100 miles away, but my Facebook and Twitter feeds kept me in touch with the thoughts of people from all corners of my homeland.

In Plymouth, as in Manchester, every vote counts. The wafer-thin majorities with which people staggered to victory last Thursday must surely prove that – despite the unfairness of the first past the post system.

As journalists, it’s our duty to find out what people in our communities are saying and thinking, and to feed our journalism with these new insights.

The Grenfell Tower horror shows what can happen when we take our eye off the detailed political ball. Those tedious regulations, planning conditions, meeting minutes? They might be dead boring, but it turns out they’re a matter of life and death, too.

Politics matters. 

The challenge for modern journalism is to help people see that – and to ensure that their voices can be heard.

Politicians meet their media match

It’s a scenario familiar to many regional journalists.

On a day when you expected to be live-blogging the traffic, suddenly you’ve got two minutes with the Prime Minister. In an hour’s time.

You go into crowdsourcing overdrive.

What the hell are we going to ask her?

Maybe there’s an argument for having the equivalent of a fire drill for these eventualities, or of having some questions encased in glass that you have to break in such election emergencies.

For my friends at the Plymouth Herald, Somerset Live and The Bath Chronicle, this was their reality yesterday.

And – on the day that she decided not to take up Jeremy Corbyn’s kind invitation to join him at the BBC’s Election Debate – Theresa May found that my friends weren’t in a mood to be taken for granted.

Mrs May was last night accused by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood of running scared because her ‘campaign of soundbites was falling apart.’

Certainly that campaign failed to impress my pal Sam Blackledge, chief reporter and political correspondent of the Herald, who had a morning meeting with Mrs May at the city’s fish market.

It was an appropriate location for an interview in which she was as slippery as a Cornish cod, and showed about as much life as the catches landed around her.

Sam – in a first person piece that has rightly been well aired in the last 24 hours – described his empty encounter with the Premier as ‘three minutes of nothing.’

The sort of speak-your-weight machine responses he got from Mrs May are far from unusual.

But it’s rare for regional reporters to point out the Prime Minister’s New Clothes in such circumstances.

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So, well done to Sam, who has also been bravely fighting off claims of bias in his coverage of the general election in my home city.

The sort of lazy nonsense that Sam has had to put up with – and I’m talking accusations of bias now, not Mrs May’s blandalism – will be familiar to all political journalists, not least those at the BBC.

It was good to see Jeremy Corbyn defending reporters this week, after his bruising encounter with Woman’s Hour – and his colleague Diane Abbott’s dismal performance on LBC.

There’s been a spirited debate on whether being across the numbers in your manifesto really matters.

And sometimes the pub quiz-style questions can jar.

But I was very taken with this piece by Ian Leslie on why journalists are right to expect politicians to know some of the detail of their policies, drawing on the powerful example of rock star David Lee Roth.

He deliberately asked for M&Ms in his band Van Halen’s gig rider – but with the brown sweets taken out, just to test the venue’s attention to detail.

When you add in the contribution of Krishnan Guru-Murthy in challenging Brexit Secretary David Davis on his party’s wilful misrepresentation of Labour’s immigration policies, I think we can agree that it’s been a good week for the media.

I’ve always been keen to see the best in politicians: people doing an often thankless task, usually for unselfish reasons.

But at election time, it’s right that our dealings with the political classes should be laced with a great deal more cynicism.

We should ask the questions that politicians won’t want to answer – and publicly call them out when they don’t.

In the early stages of the election campaign, it was clear the two main parties wanted as little to do with journalists as possible.

Now that they’ve been forced to deal with us, you can understand why.