Shining a light: The Evening Standard takes a stand on poverty

It’s not hard to find fault with the Evening Standard, and even easier to find puns. Since going free their output has been of varied quality, lagging behind Metro for news coverage on some days. It’s clear to see that Standards are slipping. In this context, their splash today is all the more heartening.

Rarely do newspapers spell out their intentions as clearly as this. For me this is journalism at its hard-hitting, unashamedly purposeful best. David Cohen tackles the lingering issue of urban poverty, wading into child burials, unemployed graduates and single parents without a hint of Bono-esque faux-philanthropism. Whilst there are criticisms of the current Government, that is never allowed to overtake the dispassionate social observation that underpins this feature. What Cohen achieves is an eye-opening read for commuting Londoners, and with an estimated audience of 1.4million, the impact on the electorate will surely be significant.

The full article is well worth a read, and the Standard editorial team are clearly 100% behind it, giving it its own mini-site. The incredible gulf between rich and poor is easily overlooked in London, but from where I live the contrast is blatent. The sight of run-down council houses in the shadows of Canary Wharf makes for a powerful image.

The reaction on Twitter has been mixed at best, but for me this redefines what the Standard brings to the freesheet market: an agenda, original journalism and a powerful sense of indignation.

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3 thoughts on “Shining a light: The Evening Standard takes a stand on poverty

  1. The article certainly pushes the indignation pretty hard. The rest of the Standard website seems to push the view benefits are too generous in this country. What proportion of the people below the poverty line in London are immigrants I wonder? The standard newspaper agenda appears to be closer to ‘bloody foreigners taking our money’…

    Should journalism really be purposeful? Surely that is slipping all to close into telling people what to think – and backing this up with some persuasive statistics. I calculate their figures for communal burials as 7% of deaths in Islington per year – this is truly shocking if it is true. I can only assume the graveyard buries dead from a wider area of London than is implied by the article.

    All this aside – benefits clearly need to be overhauled. However is it possible that the government can support every unemployed single mother in the country to a reasonable standard of living? Can the government really take responsibility in finding every unemployed 18 year old a job? Evidently the current system is utterly unfair and causing the suffering of these people. Perhaps the article should suggest some solutions as well as highlighting these problems?

  2. Patrick,
    Good points, all of them, but I think you are contradicting yourself as regards whether journalism should be purposeful or not.
    Firstly, I would like to restate that I thought the article was dispassionate and did not tell people how to think; rather it brought to light the reality that Londoners, in particular, prefer to ignore.
    Secondly, if journalism should not be purposeful then surely it should not suggest solutions?
    The need for practical solutions to be offered would imply that journalism needs a purpose and an agenda.
    However, I do take your point about the limited ability of the state to care for all unemployed/single parents 18-year olds – blanket bombing them with benefits is definitely not the answer. In that scenario, people tend to rely too heavily on the state and become lazy. For proof of this, see Evan Davis’ experiment on the BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cambridgeshire/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8530000/8530168.stm
    Thanks for reading,
    -Chris

  3. Hi Chris!

    A very good point. I think my preference for journalism without an agenda is due to concerns over a bias in the viewpoint presented by a person trying sway the views of others.

    Potentially the journalist could highlight supporting evidence as well as contradicting evidence on the topic. For example, how does the level of poverty observed in London compare with similar countries eg. France? Potentially poverty could be seen as an unfortunate side-effect of our capitalist society.

    Perhaps if the journalist took no ownership of a ‘solution’, it could be presented in an objective way. It would have to be argued for an against without bias.

    I think such emotionless and clinical writing, systematically examining the facts would be frighteningly boring to read…However it could prevent the spread of misinformation. Assuming anyone actually bought the dull newspaper in which it was written…

    Patrick

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