• Toby Irwin

The Guardian: of what, exactly?

Political media outlets maintain significant influence in today's society, both on TV stations and newspapers/online news. Given their ability to diffuse information and inform debate, one would expect that, on principle, news outlets should provide information with the intention that the reader transcribe meaning and conclusion from it themselves. Rather than reporting opinion, one should report the facts. Murky, stormy waters lie ahead for any news vessel thinking it can fabricate an opinion into fact, though it is unfortunately the case that most outlets do. Now, this is hardly surprising (or, frankly, a bad thing). Newspapers, and particularly political ones, are businesses all the same, and their position in the marketplace must ensure that they get their papers sold, and their news links clicked. This invariably relies on appealing to its own specific market area. For the Sun and the Daily Mail this is to right wing Brits. For the likes of the Guardian, it is the left wing.

Hardly a revelation thus far, granted. But the purpose of this article sprung from a recent peruse onto the Guardian's website. It is striking, and actually rather amusing, once one sees the extreme partisanship of the Guardian. Indeed, according to a YouGov poll, it is by far the most left-leaning newspaper in the UK with over 70% of respondents noticing its high left wing bias. What this extreme partisanship translates to is an almost parody-like take on news-stories. This is further accentuated in a national crisis, since the government is obviously conservative. The coronavirus pandemic has acted as Gatling Gun ammunition for the Guardian, with every single possible move by the government a sitting duck on the water. To highlight this, just look at how it compares to the BBC (The BBC itself has also come under fire for impartiality, but at least in my opinion its online news reporting remains relatively free of bias). The first screengrab below is of the BBC. It is the first story on the UK news page, on the morning of the 2nd of May (the time of writing). Things to note, the article reports that the government has passed its target of 100,000 tests a day. It further notes while capacity is at 120,000 some tests were not completed by those who received them. Capacity was therefore surpassed by 20,000, and any shortfall in completed tests was the fault of those whom received the tests, and not the government departments organising logistics. It further adds extra links to articles in the realm of the need for the testing, and minor-related articles on returning to work. The article clearly reports the data.

Now, to compare to the Guardian's reporting of this same news story. The second screengrab was taken from the frontpage of the Guardian's UK news page, on the morning of the Second of May. Things worthy of note, the centrepiece of the top article is not on the UK government's successful attainment of its target. Perhaps, one muses, it is because on the 19th the Guardian was confident in its assertion that the government's target was impossible to meet (see link below). Further, when the article does note that the target was met it is so small one doubts whether smaller font exists on a news front page. Not only this, but naturally it is essential to douse any positive news with claims that, in fact, the positive news is actually negative and that, in further fact, it is actually a form of conspiracy-esque number manipulation, hampered by further opinions that the testing was not needed after all.

Critics of my observation would likely suggest that there is need to hold government to account. Absolutely, a fair remark. Crises demand an effective government. But manipulating news to turn success into failure, positive news to negative, only creates an image of news outlets with a political veil over their eyes, unable to see past their political misgivings and recognise that reality exists out-with and independent of their own political-theoretical boxes. So, what is the point of the Guardian? What does it 'guard', really? Because it seems to my no-doubt sinful eyes that it exists only to attack and degrade anything that the government, and to a lesser, indirect extent the country, does in the attempt to advance its very narrow political agenda. The Guardian, of what? Certainly not good reporting. Certainly not mature journalism. Certainly not the news.



At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.