Thursday, 20 August 2009

Media coverage and ...oops!

Press coverage is a funny beast. Sometimes, it is great to see a campaign or an issue raised in the media; at other times, one can be disappointed at the coverage. And then there are those occasions when newspaper reports do not fully reflect what is said at meetings.

I had that experience recently following a Cornwall Council meeting when councillor expenses were debated. I made what I thought was a balanced contribution. I commented on a range of issues (which I will not go into in depth here) but included the fact that the make-up of the Council, in terms of age, etc, did not reflect the make-up of the wider population and this was partly to do with how the role was renumerated. I made a light-hearted comment about there being a lot of ‘grey hair’ in the Council chamber which was primarily a joke at myself – I may only be 42 but I certainly have few black hairs left on my head. I pointed to my head whilst making the comment and the punchline was so obvious that the Chairman of the meeting even beat me to it.

The ‘grey hair’ comment was reported in the press without the wider context, alongside a disconnected comment about encouraging younger people into politics. As a consequence, I have received post accusing me of being disrespectful to older people.

At the same time, I was pleased to be contacted by the Newquay Voice who told me they were going to report some comments I made on my blog (see my August 2nd posting) in what was last week’s paper. In the event, I was a little disappointed that the edit lost some sense of the original but they also kindly asked me to answer a series of questions (such as my favourite place in Cornwall, my three favourite films, etc) to print a profile of me in the same paper.

I was asked to produce the text within 5-6 hours and I duly obliged. It was a hard thing to do and I pondered over it quite a bit. For example, in terms of favourite books, I considered a number including Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird – both of which I read as a child. Amazingly, I settled on “Laurie Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird” – a schoolboy error happily pointed out by Bob the Hat in his column in this week’s papers. To repeat what he said – oops!

For interest, the corrected version of my answers that were printed in the Newquay Voice is as follows:

Your three favourite books

My house is stacked floor to ceiling with books and it would extremely difficult to choose just three. But I will go for the recent biography of Gwynfor Evans (the first MP for Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales); Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird which I first read as a pupil at Newquay Treviglas School and have re-read since; and 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians by Alvin M. Josephy.

Your three favourite pieces of music
I have a very wide-ranging taste in music. Three favourites would be the What’s Going On album from Marvin Gaye, which mixes outstanding music with vital social comment; the Too-Rye-Ay album by Dexys Midnight Runners – a favourite of my youth – and a wonderful compilation that I have of the jazz saxophone player Paul Desmond.

Your three favourite films
I love historical epics and powerful films. Favourites would include Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (the Hollywood version of the life of Scottish rebel William Wallace); Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe (the story of boxer Jim Braddock in the US Depression of the 1930s); and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart.

Your three favourite hobbies
My life is extremely busy and I don’t have hobbies as such. I support Redruth Rugby Club and try to get to most home games. It is also true that nothing beats a good walk on a Cornish moor or along our wonderful coastline.

Your favourite place in Cornwall
I grew up on the edge of the Goss Moor, where I am still at my most happy - especially in those more hidden areas that many walkers do not visit!

Your favourite food
My favourite would be the plate that is piled nice and high!

Your favourite shop
I love second-hand bookshops and have fond, sometimes expensive, memories of such shops throughout Cornwall and further afield.

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