When will it end?

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“Grab your pitchforks and torches! Rally your friends! The Nats are coming to take your country, your government, and your food!” That is much the sentiment that we can expect from the Tory press in the coming weeks before the General Election.

Today’s Daily Torygraph has an “exclusive” story by Simon Johnson and Peter Dominiczak, which reveals that Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, “secretly” supports David Cameron as Prime Minister, adding that she does not see Ed Miliband as “prime ministerial”.

The article, which relates to a meeting the SNP leader had with the French Ambassador in February, comes (conveniently) after Ms Sturgeon made a successful performance in the seven-way leaders debate, aired on Thursday.

Since then, Ms Sturgeon has called for an inquiry into the story, saying that it is “categorically, 100% untrue”. Furthermore, the French Embassy released a statement saying, while the issue had been discussed, “Ms Sturgeon did not touch on her political preferences with regards the future Prime Minister”.

For starters, the fact Mr Johnson has failed to approach the First Minister for reply goes against one of the key principles of journalistic code of conduct.

The recently established Independent Press Standards Organisation Editor’s Code of Conduct, for instance, states clearly in Clause 2 that subjects should be given the opportunity to reply to any supposed inaccuracies.

Yet, we should not be surprised. The latest SNP surge will send shivers down the spines of many in the Westminster establishment, and the media will do their utmost to quash the latest “rebellion” from the north; just as they did in the independence referendum when the “Yes” side gained momentum.

But when will this end? There have been numerous cases in which politicians and businesspeople have been taken up for things they have said on- or off-the-record, or online. For example, former Rangers FC director Chris Graham had to stand down from his post after anti-Muslim comments posted on Twitter.

This is just the start. With the ability to trace back a person’s history on social media becoming ever easier, will we end up in a situation where politicians are found to have said anti-anything comments on Facebook as a twelve year-old?

Investigative reporting is excellent, and is what every budding journalist hopes to achieve to make it big in the industry; but if we are going to start chasing the superfluous and ridiculous, what hope can we have for the future of our media?

One might argue that Sturgeon’s comments were neither ridiculous, nor superfluous, but that matters little. A comment she may or may not have said in private, and absolutely not in line with her support of a “progressive Labour government”, is simply there to stir up fear and anger.

It is a pity that the Fourth Estate has dropped its standards to the Bottom-End Estate, but who can we blame for it? Look to our fellows. People like scandal and disgrace – but it doesn’t make it right. The media must return to being a watchdog, not a rodent.

It does not seem likely that much of the media is going to change its attitudes any time soon, and so we should expect more stories like this in the future, as May 7th looms.

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