In the classic 1993 film, ‘Groundhog Day’ comedian Bill Murray plays a journalist who finds himself waking up again and again in the same small town where he is forced to see the same people do the same things, over and over.
Readers of the Edinburgh Evening News are starting to wonder if Groundhog Day has come to the Lothians as they notice the same people saying the same things about abortion vigils in their local paper
In 2021, the Edinburgh Evening News published 10 articles about abortion vigils. 7 were written by one reporter; Jolene Campbell.
Campbell’s reporting is consistent. All her stories include a quote from Lucy Grieve, who is the Co-Founder and Director of the Back Off campaign group. Grieve and Back off oppose vigils at abortion clinics; they want ‘buffer zones’, they want a new national law and they are disappointed that Scottish Government does not agree. Grieve makes these points again and again.
But Campbell’s 7 articles only include 1 quote from a person involved in, or supportive of, abortion clinic vigils. Obvious questions are not answered: Why do vigils take place? What motivates participants? What are the aims and goals of groups such as 40 Days for Life? Campbell’s articles make no attempt to find out, or tell ‘the other side of the story.’
Of the 3 other Evening News articles, one, by Ian Swanson, does quote a pro-life source. The other 2, by reporter Joseph Anderson, do not.
Overall, for the whole of 2021, the Edinburgh Evening News quotes 25 sources who favour banning vigils and only 2 sources which support them.
The paper’s masthead describes its writing as “news you can trust since 1873”
Part of the JPI media group, Edinburgh Evening News sets high standards for its journalism. JPI’s Readers Charter states:
This newspaper is built on a tradition of accuracy and fairness, giving you the information you need to understand our world, holding power to account and exposing injustice. Our trusted brand means we are the only place where you can read and participate in honest debates. We are committed to giving a voice to those who struggle to be heard as well as those whose profession is crafting an argument….
We are committed to reporting, informing, debating, entertaining and reflecting the values of our communities. We therefore promise … 1 – To report accurately and fairly stories in the public interest. 2 – To treat our readers with respect and to report news they can trusthttps://www.jpimedia.co.uk/readers-charter/
None of this seems to be part of the Evening News’ coverage of abortion clinic vigils. Journalists are not giving “a voice to those who struggle to be heard”, readers cannot “understand our world” without hearing both sides of a story and “honest debates” need 2 points of view.
IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, makes clear that, to ensure accuracy:
“the press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.”https://www.ipso.co.uk/editors-code-of-practice/
The National Union of Journalists code of conduct expects that a journalist:
“At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.”https://www.nuj.org.uk/about-us/rules-and-guidance/code-of-conduct.html
In the movie, Bill Murray eventually becomes a better person and uses his position to save lives and help people, becoming one of the most loved men in town. His journalism improves so much that, during his report on Groundhog Day, all the other stations turn their microphones to listen to him. But he does have to go through a lot of Groundhog days!
Edinburgh Evening News was approached for comment.