Letter from the Editor: The shocking events that trump politics

When tragedy strikes, it makes a lot of news seem trivial. But it's all about balance

Share

Morning all. In the final chapter of his wonderful history of British journalism, Andrew Marr – a former Editor of this newspaper – examines “Two Aristocracies”. My Trade concludes with a comparison between columnists and foreign correspondents.

Marr points out that for the foreign correspondent, intoxicated by the glamour or grimness of wherever he is residing, the relative tedium of the domestic news he has to fight with for space is infuriating. What’s a story about a wayward priest from Rochdale doing on page 7, when I can literally see a military junta from my  window (in Burma, say, or Nigeria)? To some foreign correspondents, the tenor of domestic news can be unforgivably trivial.

Then there are the columnists, gently ribbed by Marr for their inflated egos, and their belief that, what with being endowed with great powers of analysis, unrivalled contacts, and a facility for prose, they needn’t actually bother to find stuff out. So pompous, sorry, wise are their words that these pundits are entitled to more space, bigger salaries, and preferential treatment compared to lowly reporters who actually knock on doors and pick up the phone.

Some of this can be overdone, of course. Most foreign correspondents started out as domestic reporters, so are sympathetic to the needs of the news desk back in London. Many columnists write beautifully, and a dose of polemic or irony can be the best thing in any newspaper. And in the age of the web, the fight for space is less of a problem, because if you can’t get on to page 7, you can still tweet the story to your thousands of followers.

But I find Marr’s distinction useful in reflecting on this week’s news. The big story at home was a bizarre and cynical reshuffle. Some MPs claim that the public don’t care about reshuffles, that it’s just a media obsession. I’m sorry but when you have – in Nicky Morgan – a Secretary of State in charge of thousands of primary and secondary schools, with no discernible record of competence in the field of education, who is responsible for equalities while being opposed to gay marriage, and who ensures that – unforgivably – not a single one of the six ministers in the Department for Education went to a state school, that matters. It really matters.

But then comes along Thursday afternoon. As so often, foreign horrors come not single spies, but in battalions. The shooting down of Flight MH17 and Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza followed in quick succession. These are the moments journalists live for, not in a sinister sense, but because we want to be where the news is. And suddenly reshuffles, and the punditry they produce, can seem trivial.

The trick, I think, is to notice that all of it, domestic and foreign, matters, but in varying degrees for different people. That’s our job: to edit the world so you don’t have to. In that spirit, I hope you enjoy today’s edition.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss