Last Wednesday at 9pm I stood in Petersfield Square for 20 minutes, writes Ian James of East Hampshire Green Party. The weather was foul. It was a dark, dank night with a piercing chill wind. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.
I was just one in a throng of others. We had just received some shattering news. One of Petersfield’s bona fide treasures had been given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. We stood in support and solidarity with Jon Walker.
Jon is known and loved throughout Petersfield society as an all-round good bloke. He is also the chief reporter for the Petersfield Post.
No human can be truly objective. The best we can do is acknowledge this and try to get as close as we can. This is especially true for good journalists. And even more so for a journalist of the local news media.
In this age of mass misinformation, the local newspaper – and increasingly its social media – is the only reliable source of factual local news.
Jon (below) is a good journalist. I first noticed his name as the byline of an article about the local district council which operates a questionable scheme known as “debt for yield”. The government holds this scheme a misuse of public money. Many professional bodies warn it is too risky for a responsible council to use.
Jon also reported on the David J Bowles report on the governance of the council. This report found an appalling standard. It reported a culture of intimidation. The council took no action. It merely “noted” the report.
Had it not been for the local news media, the report and its findings would have gone no further than the council chamber.
Local news media serves a vital function for local democracy. The internet was deliberately designed to have no central control. No-one could stop or censor the free flow of ideas and opinions. This was based on the belief everyone would make rational evidence-based contributions.
It was actually true of the original founding members. It then had enormous potential to benefit mankind.
This potential for good seems to have been wiped out by unprincipled greed.
The internet is dominated by profit-driven corporations. They have replaced the morals and principles of the founding members with naked greed.
Their profit-at-any-price policies drive algorithms deliberately designed to generate positive feedback loops of misinformation. These algorithms target groups most susceptible to the false information and conspiracy theories that they find by trawling through the opinions that people post on the Internet.
Untruths can be repeated so many times so fast that they rapidly becomes fact.
Information need no longer be passed through the lens of objectivity provided by the likes of local news media.
I’m sure future generations will find ways of restoring and valuing objectivity and fact. Until then, let us hope for the sake of democracy in East Hampshire that the Petersfield Post and the other Herald titles can hold on.
And let us all send our support and good wishes to Jon.