Should great power equal great responsibility?

Over the past week it has been reported by several news outlets that musicians Rihanna and Chris Brown are apparently ‘weeks away’ from confirming that they have reconciled romantically. Ordinarily such news could quite easily be dismissed as trivial gossip but to anyone readily aware of the couple’s turbulent history this news in fact presents a complex moral dilemma.

As many will be aware in 2009 Brown was sentenced to five years’ probation and six months community labour for a brutal assault carried out on then-girlfriend Rihanna. The attack left Rihanna with visible facial injuries and Brown with what many at the time considered an unsalvageable reputation. Their relationship abruptly ended with Rihanna – in one of the few interviews she gave following the attack – citing one of the main reasons behind her decision to leave Brown as an inability to continue the relationship in the knowledge that young fans of hers suffering in violent relationships might see her decision to go back to her abusive lover as a sign that they should also be willing to do the same. She was applauded by many for this choice. However, in the three years that have passed since his sentencing not only has Brown’s career made a near-complete recovery with his amassing two US number one albums and a Grammy award (a controversial topic in itself) but it would also appear now that he could be on the brink of fully rekindling his romance with the woman he once savagely beat. These rumours alone have ignited a ferocious response with many branding Rihanna a terrible role model to the young people who look up to her. This story obviously sheds further light on the ever-divisive issue of whether or not it can ever be appropriate to forgive and forget in scenarios of domestic violence but what particularly interests me is that it raises the question of just how much do we/should we rely on celebrities to communicate sound moral messages to the youth of today?

Whilst I take the view that the responsibility for shaping the moral values of a child should always lie ultimately with the parental figure(s) in their life it would be naïve of me to ignore the fact that influence from the media on a child’s overall world view is completely unavoidable. Every day children are bombarded, certainly not unwillingly, with images and messages that constantly mold their attitudes regarding how they should perceive specific people (themselves included) and specific issues. Many would argue that individuals in the music industry have one of, if not the most, powerful platforms for widespread influence in the world. Taking Rihanna herself as an example: here we have a woman who is currently followed by over 26 million people on Twitter, liked by over 60 million on Facebook and was this year named as one of the most influential people in the world by Times Magazine. Social networking plays an increasingly prominent role in the lives of young people with each passing day and her position within that world allows her to communicate literally any fleeting thought that pops into her head to what would in 2006 have equated to more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Has this hugely influential position at all affected the content of the material she posts? Not at all. This year alone Rihanna has been criticised on several occasions for sharing photographs and messages that contain everything from profane language to drug use to what many would consider soft-core pornography i.e. hardly the kind of thing any parent would want their children exposed to. Though I agree that such content is completely inappropriate for children and that it has become perhaps far too easy for them to access it I would also argue that realistically celebrities such as Rihanna should not be expected to act as beacons of morality to our children purely because they are celebrities.

Celebrities are to my mind made up simplistically of two types of people: People who pursue a craft in which a by-product of success is public recognition and people who crave fame and will do more or less anything to get it. The point I’m making here is that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in either group who walked up to the career advisor and said ‘when I grow up I want to be a role model’.  There appears to be an unspoken clause in the hypothetical contract of celebrity that anyone in the public eye should be willing to conduct themselves in a manner befitting with the moral standards of society. I stress that this unofficial rule is exactly that – unofficial. Once again using Rihanna as an example; it seems illogical that people would expect a young, childless woman whose profession thrives on controversy and uninhibited self expression to tone it down for fear of upsetting people she doesn’t know. The same goes for her various social networking exploits. Twitter and Facebook are designed for sharing details of your personal life so if her personal life happens to involve things that society vilifies but she deems appropriate to display then why should she hold back? After all is it her fault that millions of people care at all about what she says or does? Returning to the original news story, perhaps people are right to criticise the decision to reunite with an abusive ex but at the end of the day our decisions, and indeed our mistakes, are ultimately our own to make – so why should this courtesy not be extended to those under the spotlight?

Though the actions of celebrities that fall on the darker side of morally grey undoubtedly pose a threat to the moral integrity of today’s youth it’s arguable that so too, perhaps more so, does the naivety of parents who expect that people in the public eye are automatically going to behave in a saintly manner.

The North has an image problem…

By Samantha McLean
The North has an image problem…whether you agree or disagree, listen in to Sam’s reasoning and leave a comment!

Qualities versus Tabloids

I have pondered the qualities versus tabloids debate a few times recently. I’ve compared and contrasted them on occasion and looked at how they both cover the same main news stories in very different ways.

So, I personally read a quality paper. The Times to be precise. I chose The Times a few years back because I wanted to read a daily broadsheet and I liked its sophisticated look. That may be a typically female incentive to decide on a publication, but that was my initial reason.

I did however, fall in love with it. The diversity of its different sections such as news, science, arts, culture and world news provide me with everything I want from a daily. But mainly, I love the writing style in The Times, although its articles are serious and the journalistic standard is high, they are clear and concise. I like to absorb what I read, not to feel as though I have to read a paragraph two or three times to crack some cryptic literary jargon. I also love the fiesty opinion columnists and often flick rapidly to that section to see what they are saying on current issues before I decide which news stories to read.

Having said all that, it frustrates me greatly when people say they read qualities because they think it makes them appear clever or intellectual and I think that, particularly for journalism students, many feel obligated to say they read a quality newspaper because it shows their appreciation of good journalism or reflects their aspirations.

I come from a very working class family where all the males are tradesmen. That’s not to say they don’t devour books or watch parliamentary question time (that’s a given) but they also read tabloids. I live in a rural area, a mining village until the 1920’s where there are lots of working class families and lots of tabloid readers.

I think tabloids are brilliant. Snobbery about them escapes me. Yes, they are sensationalised, often unreliable, full of celebrity culture, colourful pictures and the like but they do have news content and in my humble opinion I think they serve their purpose in making news accesible to everyone.

Working class men grabbing their Gregg’s sausage rolls and filling up their Transit vans at petrol stations each morning are buying their daily copies of The Sun and regardless of the worth of the journalism, they are obtaining news in some form.

These young working lads or lasses want a light-hearted overview of what’s going on in the world, not some hoity toity ramblings or a dull, sea of grey print. The majority of society is made up of straight-forward, down to earth working folk who want to know what’s going down but it’s not on their agenda to consume political happenings or economical information and store it for dinner party conversation. Tabloids successfully serve their purpose here and like it or lump it, they still report news and you will still be suitably informed on current affairs if you read their news.

In further advocacy of the tabloids and their journalism, I have to commend The Sun in particular for their headlines. Their headlines, in my opinion, are quite simply genius. If I could find a publication which combined a Sun headline with a Times article, I’d be in heaven.

I’ve often bought a quality and tabloid on the same day to look at the different newspaper’s approaches to their articles. Last week I had The Scotsman and The Sun. I was writing an article for the Journal about the SNPs calls to fly the Saltire above the Union flag at Edinburgh Castle. The Scotsman’s headline was “Calls for Saltire to be flown above Union flag at Edinburgh Castle.” Whilst The Sun wrote “Hassle at the Castle.”

Another example I can think of is when Gordon Brown left number 10 Downing Street in May this year. The Guardian’s headline was “Gordon Brown says farewell to number 10.” The Sun, wrote boldly over a picture of the sullen Prime Minister, “Brown and Out.”

This is just my own opinion but I think there’s a stroke of undeniable brilliance in these headlines. That’s not to say that journalists working for quality papers are not capable of writing them, just that they and their publications choose not to. The tabloids do and rightly or wrongly, I find them hilarious and a welcome relief from the ‘serious’ journalism many of us, often snobbily, say we prefer.

Lisa Toner

How do people feel about the possibility that prisoners will be allowed to vote?

Prisoners are set to be given the chance to vote in next year’s Holyrood election after a highly controversial human rights ruling. In my opinion I feel that the idea will cause a great deal of controversy; critics have already expressed their anger saying people who had broken the law should not be granted the privilege of participating.
To an extent I agree. People who have broken the law have gone against what is socially acceptable and therefore taken themselves out of the community and should not be granted to a say on what goes on locally or nationally.
On the other hand as the European human rights ruling has outlined, banning people from voting is actually illegal as it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as pointed out by axe murderer John Hirst who was jailed for brutally killing his landlady.

What are people’s views on the change in the Holyrood election?