It is not the job of journalists to be positive in the worst crisis of our lives.


I am of course a rather nervous person and I remember suggesting to people back then that we might soon experience similar horrors on these shores.

When the Corona virus raged through northern Italy in early March, the scenes there were painted as apocalyptic.

Repeated attacks on the media for not supporting the government are dangerous and exhausting, writes Liam Thorp

But even as the virus began to make its vicious way through Britain, and the government’s mistakes became more and more obvious, there always seemed to be a decent section of the population who, for whatever reason, refused to understand the true extent of the disaster here and the mistakes that led to it.

I clearly remember many people who rejected this idea, especially in the social media, claiming that the situation in Italy was due to some kind of mismanagement – I think there were some lazy and completely wrong stereotypes that got around.

Richard Horton, editor of the esteemed medical journal The Lancet, twittered this week that he could not understand the “passivity” of people in the UK in the face of a truly horrific figure of over 40,000 virus deaths.

As a journalist, this goes beyond passivity and moves towards aggression from those who simply don’t want to face the truth.

I have lost track of how often I have been accused of “scaremongering” or “spreading fear” just for reporting these depressing numbers.

I have been reporting on the daily death toll at local and national level for the past three months. This is not a job I enjoy, it is dark and quite disturbing, but it is something we have to do, people have to know the facts.

The criticism seems to intensify from some quarters when journalists point out the many clear failures of the government that have brought us this far.

It is now very obvious that enormous mistakes have been made in handling this pandemic in several areas – the late lockdown, the enormous problems with testing and personal protective equipment for medical and nursing staff who risk their lives to treat others.

The UK has one of the worst death toll rates in the world and the highest in Europe – there can be no other conclusion that things have gone very badly wrong.

And yet journalists who perform one of their key functions by holding the government to account with difficult questions at Downing Street press conferences are often the subject of attack and abuse.

I don’t remember how many times I was told to be “more positive” when reporting on this pandemic, but the truth is that there is not much to be positive about.

How dare they ask questions to a government during the biggest crisis we have all experienced? How can they dare to ask why things went so wrong?


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