The archetypal image of a journalist is a sleazy, hard drinking, chain-smoking unscrupulous hack who would sell his own mother for a front page exclusive.
Once upon a time there might have been a couple of characters like these lurking around in their off-white trench coats – but today’s journos are largely the sanitised products of college courses who mostly lack instinct and wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them in the leg.
So we had to smile at Boston’s Borough Council’s hack attack that followed newspaper claims that the borough was the murder capital of the UK.
Never one to snub a flashy headline when it suits, the Boston Beano and website trumpeted: “Murder capital: Tabloid rubbish! Manipulation of statistics smear Boston.”
You’ll get the idea from the following sample: “In an attempt to compare Boston with the likes of Greater Manchester, journalists magnified the town’s actual crime figures to make comparisons based on hundreds of thousands of population.
“This manipulation revealed Boston to have a higher “murderous” crime rate than anywhere else in the country. In fact, for the period under examination, the year ending last September, Boston actually had two murders compared to Greater Manchester’s 38.”
Whilst our MP was also critical of the reports, he agreed the raw data was accurate.
The reports which appeared were extrapolations of the figures for murders and attempted murders to a total that would be found in a population of 100,000 (not “hundreds of thousands.”)
To say – as Worst Street did – that Boston had two murders compared to Greater Manchester’s 38 is irrelevant obfuscation.
Yet again, our so-called “leaders” are unwilling to look problems in the eye – instead, opting for the three wise monkeys approach … believing that if you see, hear, or speak no evil, then no evil exists.
Major elect Stephen Woodliffe – a member of this club – has spoken of “irresponsible” and shameful manipulation” of the figures.
The council’s use of the word “smear” is also interesting – implying a deliberate action.
Picture the scene.
In a Docklands newspaper office, a drunken hack pulls down his green eye shield, adjusts his plastic shirt sleeve protectors and tells his team … “your target for tonight is Boston in Lincolnshire, Get out your grease guns and start smearing.”
Leader ‘Nipper’ Bedford’s comment that Boston was the first authority in the country to give the police powers to control consumption and possession of alcohol in the streets serves only to underline how great that problem was.
This year’s outgoing mayor, Richard Austin’s, failed attempt to get major support for his “Great Past and a Bright Future” campaign was bang on the money when he said: “"The image and reputation of a place is its most important asset.”
Boston’s image is largely due to the failure of the powers that be to acknowledge and address the problem.
And until they do, nothing much will change.
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