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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 24/07/2005

When we were asked to take part in the npower/SFA summer schools initiative I knew we were bound to get a lot of publicity. As football plays such an important part in Scottish life. I also knew that it was a good thing for us to be involved with. I have a good sense of the press since I’ve lived with a journalist for over twenty five years and I also worked for many years myself in BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs department. Nonetheless I’m constantly taken back by how the press covers stories. My first interview was with what is known in the trade as GMS (Good Morning Scotland). I’ve been on several times and am on chatty terms with Mhairi one of the lead presenters. In fact I used to work with her mum when I was in the BBC. Off mike she is a warm and likeable person but, no doubt, because this has been expected of her, her on-air persona can be quite hard and brittle. Now the football story is pretty innocuous stuff. We are contributing to a npower/SFA manual helping parents to support their kids’ involvement in school football by writing a section on confidence and motivation. But still she felt that her role was to point out the flaw in what we were about. “So should you be spending your funding on kids’ football?” she asked “shouldn’t you be spending it on health?” Of course, it was easy for me to point out there was no public money being spent on this and yes we are doing other things on health. However, it made me aware of how common this formulation is in the media in Scotland and beyond – why are you doing x when you could be doing y? If I’d been in the studio talking about health no doubt I’d have been quizzed about why we weren’t doing something on housing or education or unemployment or whatever. It leads to a variation of that feeling that you are never good enough as you are. “Great that you got eight out of ten in that exam but why didn’t you get ten?”
It may seem paradoxical but my other observation on the media’s response is that if they like an idea there is a tendency to be overly positive to the point of overly simplifying. This was very evident in the Evening Times. They were so positive that I’m still wondering if they were being sarcastic. “The image of over zealous dads lambasting their child for every mistake should be a thing of the past”, writes the unnamed journalist. “Dr Craig will aim to cast off criticism unless constructive. And pessimism will be banished and replaced with promoting self-improvement.” As I read this piece I wondered who is this woman with the fairy wand that is going to transform negatives into positives? I don’t even want to banish pessimism, just reduce its currency in football and other areas of Scottish life. I’m well-aware that criticism, of all types, will always be with us but I would like to see less of it. In fact one of the difficulties about what the Centre is trying to do is that there is a tendency for people to think that what we are suggesting is a complete about face in Scottish attitudes: transform negative to positives, banish pessimism and make sure optimism reigns supreme, for example. But our argument is that what we need is a shift in attitudes towards the positive by about ten to twenty per cent. This is enough to see a difference. And the press have a big role to play in that transformation process

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