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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 15/12/2005

Iíve just given my last talk of this year to a group of managers in a local authority department. And as usual the press came in for criticism. When I give talks outlining the various barriers to confidence within Scottish culture I donít tend to mention the press but invariably someone from the audience does. People right round Scotland seem aggrieved at the fact that newspapers are much more interested in taking a negative angle than writing a positive story. What I find interesting is that in the past couple of years there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people who now say that the local press are just about as bad as the national press for being negative. Folk usually say that in the past you could count on the local press to cover local events and happenings in a mainly favourable light but now they too are out to find fault. Apparently theyíll even turn up to local galas to look for a bad news story.

Of course, it is true that right round the world bad news sells. As human beings we are instinctively drawn to stories which scare us. It is not difficult to see why stories of murders and accidents sell papers. The UK press as a whole tends to be cynical and like knocking success. But countless people who have worked for the press in London, or elsewhere in the UK, will testify to the fact that such negativity is even more intense in Scotland. Not long ago a newspaper publisher told me that he had worked in various roles in papers in England and while he thought the press there had a tendency to be negative he just couldnít believe the negativity of the Scottish press. A senior official in the SFA also told me recently that his colleagues in Europe could not get over the negativity of the Scottish media. "My European colleagues didnít believe there was another country in the world where the national press would undermine the countryís campaign to host international tournaments."

When people complain about the press they often feel pretty negative about the prospect for change. Iím more optimistic. As you may be aware the Centre has got lots of news coverage in the last year. Iím always been phoned up by journalists from various parts of the press and what I find intriguing is that many of them tell me how much they agree with my argument and then give me examples of the negative news values of the papers they work in. Whatís more the people writing the negative stories have an investment in making Scotland better - in helping to turn round some of the poor health, education and social welfare statistics or to create a better, more positive atmosphere for sport. As intelligent people surely they will come to realise that stoking a blame culture doesnít improve results. All it does is heighten fear and inertia Ė not the recipe for improvement in public services.

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