Why intelligent criticism is good for government (and politicians)

I was uncharacteristically lost for words when I discovered, through Mark Devenport’s latest post, that a senior and highly capable Sinn Fein MLA was using material gleaned from a UK based right wing ginger group (funded so far as we can tell, by non taxpaying British expats) with a known record of rolling together own brand ‘dodgy dossiers’ (see Pete’s post for the detailed links).

Adds: Just had one reader contact us to point out that this could be interpreted as a measure of the distance Sinn Fein has travelled from nominal party of the left to mainstream centre right…

This case illustrates why it is important for good journalists to remain sceptical (but not cynical) about what politicians tell them.

By contrast, the BBC are doing trailers for Nick Robinson piece on Radio Four tonight, which highlights a conversation Cameron had with his wife the night before the Conservative leader did with the Lib Dems, in which her husband tells her he doesn’t think the deal can be done. Pillow talk elevated to the status of political significance.

Critical independence in journalism actually helps politicians spot failings early, and do better. Even if, as I suspect I would in their position, politicians hate it when it happens to them. But just replicating talking points empties the public space of meaningful discourse, even on the hyperlocal level. And reduces the provenance of politics with the voters.

Take the Newcastle Rocks site for instance, who a few weeks ago noted that the local DPP site had not updated the minutes of their meeting for four years… Now, whilst it is true that the DPP’s are in some kind of limbo awaiting possible amalgamation, a few weeks later, after a four year break, the minutes are finally back in place

This is one of the points I’ll want to raise when I give the keynote speech at the Parnell Summer School on Sunday 8th August

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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