I WAS appalled by the lack of balance in the reporting of Thursday’s rally in Sheffield.
I have come to expect loaded propaganda from much of the national press, but naively believed the local press might be relied upon to reflect the feelings, beliefs and opinions of the community with more understanding and awareness.
As it was, you chose to highlight one person’s aggressive opposition to the rally to the exclusion of the peacefully-expressed opinions of thousands worried about their futures and the futures of the next generation. This person was arrested for his behaviour. What message does it send out when prejudiced abuse gains more coverage than a representative range of opinions?
The coverage pandered to the lowest form of distortion. You have done a grave disservice to journalism, have been corrupted by desire for sensationalism and lost the essential need for objectivity in news coverage.
While previous reportage had been quite balanced the coverage on the front page and Martin Smith’s sneering report were anything but.
If any demonstrators had behaved in the way your protesting bricklayer behaved we would have been denounced as a drunken rabble.
As well as fighting over pensions many at the rally also spoke about fighting to defend jobs and services that belong to the community.
A Barnsley college teacher talked about their strike against a 25% cut in the workforce. My partner is a teacher who has just been made redundant after 20 years; 12,000 jobs disappeared from education between January and March this year alone.
Far from being immune from government attacks we are being hit from several directions. Between 2006 and 2011 our pay - like the pay of 6,000,000 public sector workers - has been held down below inflation. During this period it has fallen 8% below the 2006 level in real terms and is set to fall by a similar amount over the next two years.
This fall in spending power is the cause of further redundancies in the private sector, such as in TJ Hughes and Thornton’s and the sharp decline in construction work. We also face privatisation and the break-up of our national collective bargaining through the academies programme and a steady notching up of the pressure to hit targets which punish teachers who work in the most challenging schools.
Our profession is in danger of becoming increasingly demoralised and undervalued. For many the attack on pensions could be the last straw.
The magnificent demonstration in Sheffield was a sign of the anger many teachers feel. We hope the Government sees reason and withdraws the threat to our pension scheme which has already been ‘reformed’ in 2006 (raising the pension age from 60 to 65). Far from not caring about the children we teach many teachers were out on strike because of the constant deterioration in the prospects for the next generation. If we don’t defend what others have fought for there will be nothing left for them.
If the Government does not back off we will be seeing far more widespread public sector strikes in the autumn.
Ben Morris, Sheffield NUT Joint Branch Secretary
As President of Sheffield NUT, I feel both honour- and duty-bound to express my dismay at the article on your front page. How could such a gross misrepresentation of the facts be presented to readers?
NUT members at my school were infuriated by your report - and rightly so.
Mr Cartwright yelled abuse at the top of his voice through several speeches, grabbed someone’s placard and dumped it in the fountain. Yes, at some stage, he was booed. This was not, however, because he was ‘challenging’ protesters but because he seemed hell bent on single-handedly sabotaging the event. The use of the term ‘challenge’ in the article has connotations of rational argument. Several individuals, including members of the police, tried to discuss calmly with Mr Cartwright but he would not engage in sensible discourse. Instead, he preferred to shout and swear.
In terms of the unemployment issue, several speakers mentioned or alluded to the unemployment crisis. They argued that making people work until they were too old to do a job properly was not only unfair but did nothing to alleviate unemployment. They therefore called for unity between both public and private sector workers as well as the unemployed. Sadly, these points were clearly missed by the sole heckler of the entire event as well as your own reporter.
These are hard times. We all appreciate the necessity for The Star to focus on newspaper sales. However, on behalf of your readers, please do not let balanced argument and professional integrity become the casualties.