DAVID Gibson is chief officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which he says is “the 11,500-strong representative body for mountaineers and hill walkers in Scotland”.
He continues: “Its activities range from promoting access and the safe enjoyment of the mountains to campaigning on landscape issues, such as protecting the best remaining wild mountain landscapes from inappropriate wind farm developments.”
What are your media habits?
I tend to rely on the radio or the BBC news website for bulletins – but I like Channel 4 News for greater depth. For work, I have to keep a close eye on coverage of the mountains and mountaineering issues. For that, I tend to use Google searches, specialist websites and twitter – so what I read and the media I follow is largely dictated by who is covering the subjects which matter to me.
Any particularly favourite journalists, and why?
There are some very talented journalists and I appreciate the pressures under which they work. I am often impressed with Scotland’s local newspapers where there are some reporters and editors who really campaign for their readers, communities and countryside.
There are some excellent writers on specialist magazines and websites, such as Dan Bailey and Chris Townsend, who have a real devotion to the mountains and an understanding of what they mean in terms of environment and culture, health and wellbeing.
To what extent has the media become an increasing or decreasing part of your professional life?
As an organisation with limited resources, the media is vital to us. Working with journalists is a key way to get messages across about safety, access and landscape. So media work is of ever-increasing importance and we are always very keen to work with journalists and aim to provide an authoritative response.
To what extent is New Media (websites, social networking, etc) part of your media world?
New media are vital. Twitter is one of the key tools and sources we have. It’s hard to recall how we used to communicate to such a wide audience before twitter, websites and Facebook.
How would you rate the media understanding, and coverage, of your sector?
In the mainstream media it’s very mixed, perhaps because generalists are too often doing stories needing specialist knowledge and have little time to get to grips with the issues. Last winter’s concerns over the number of deaths in the mountains was a good example. The problem was not the coverage of individual incidents but in the attempts to draw wider conclusions. There were some serious failures to understand basic data. Sadly, by opting for alarm rather than analysis, some media missed an opportunity to properly explore the issue of mountain safety.
Similarly, we are sometimes portrayed as anti-wind farm when we have opposed just six per cent of applications. We have deliberately kept out of the ‘wind farms good’ or ‘wind farms bad’ shouting match because it’s sterile. We argue that certain places must remain wild and open – including the best of our mountain landscapes – and want serious discussion on how this can be achieved.
If you were an editor (newspaper, television, etc. state which) for a day, what would you do?
If I was running a Scottish national for a day I would get every reporter out of the Central Belt, away from phones and computer screens, meeting and talking to real people, in real circumstances all round the country.
It is sad the way that the number of regional reporters and specialist correspondents has fallen. I wonder if the steepness of decline in circulation figures is partly due to people feeling that there is too little in the newspapers which authentically reflects their own lives and concerns.