Letter from the editor: The oxygen of publicity

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The Independent Online

Civil disturbance is very much the topic of the moment, whether those disturbances are in Damascus or London. The media’s role in reporting strife on the streets is a tricky one to negotiate, and in the aftermath of the weekend’s trouble in Piccadilly has been held up to scrutiny.

In focussing on the damage done by a minority of troublemakers, are we a) giving them the oxygen of publicity and b) failing to pay enough attention to the genuine grievances of the vast majority of protesters? The answer, probably, is yes and yes.

Margaret Scott, an i reader from Scarborough, says she is “appalled by the way the media have reported the rally of people from all walks of life”. She, and others, believe we should have concentrated on the peaceful, positive aspects of Saturday’s demonstration. Mrs Scott adds that she is angry at the misdeeds of the banks and that “at 82, I would have been marching had I been well enough”.

The problem is that the current climate is both divisive and complicated. Here at i, we are conscious that we have to present all sides of the argument, which is why we have Dominic Lawson today, whose view of the situation (and the world) is very different from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who wrote yesterday in passionate support of the protesters. In many ways, the current rash of protests here is a direct expression of the Big Society. We have been told by the government that we should be empowered to take charge of our own destinies: this is the flip side of that particular coin.

One thing is certain: this won’t be the last example of popular discontent we shall see this year. i will also be there on the streets, bringing you coverage that is fair and, most importantly, unbiased. If we get it wrong, be sure to let us know - by peaceful means, of course!