In My Opinion: Ellen Arnison: Present the facts, not saucy postcard values

ANOTHER teacher under suspicion of something inappropriate with a pupil, another newspaper filled with the scandal. Sure, in this case, there was no mention of charges and no-one seems clear what is supposed to have happened, in a lay-by, late at night.

Only in this case, among the details are claims that the teacher is apparently a ‘pretty blonde’, that she’s understood to be popular, and that only last term she is said to have encouraged her pupils to read poems on seduction.

Oh, that’s OK then.

No it isn’t. This is a very serious matter – quite rightly being investigated by the authorities.

What she taught – clearly part of the curriculum – is neither here nor there. Equally, the colour of her hair and how she looks should have no relevance in a serious news story. And, anyway, in an impartial piece of news journalism, who decides what’s ‘pretty’? You wouldn’t talk about a man who was similarly accused as being ‘greyish and less than averagely attractive’.

By ‘pretty’, are we to believe the pupil might console himself because the teacher was a ‘looker’? What kind of nonsense is this? It’s like suggesting that the victim or a mugging mightn’t feel quite so dreadful if the thug who snatched their bag had all their own teeth.

Stories about wrong-doing of whatever kind should be reported straight – relevant facts only. The minute you start adding saucy postcard values to news judgement, other victims are created.

A victim has enough to contend with after a crime has allegedly been committed without needing to deal with prejudice because they are not stereotypical victims.

Just because someone under suspicion of doing something wrong is pretty, female, small, young or unlikely in some other way, doesn’t reduce the magnitude of the alleged crime. Present the facts. Readers, and the subjects of our stories, deserve nothing less.

Ellen Arnison worked for the Daily Star of Scotland and the Scottish Daily Mirror. She now works freelance, including writing, subbing, search engine optimisation, brand journalism, ghost blogging, blogging, copywriting and social media. She is the author of ‘Blogging for Happiness: A Guide to Improving Positive Mental Health (and Wealth) from Your Blog’.