Look at this – The Guardian has had to respond to attacks from readers who claim it has been too critical of Jeremy Corbyn in its Labour leadership coverage.
Not surprisingly – given this newspaper’s history – the Labour leadership race, and in particular the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn, has generated powerful feelings among readers, not all in favour of the Guardian’s coverage. “Had enough of your paper,” said the subject line of an email from one reader, who went on to say: “I’ve been a regular reader of the Guardian (Manchester Guardian as was) since 1958. Despite the low point reached in the 60s when you supported the US war in Vietnam for a while, I still continued with it. But your sustained, arrogant, specious and just false reporting of Corbyn’s candidacy is too much. I am not a member or even supporter of the Labour party but your scurrilous coverage has convinced me that your paper no longer lives up to the label. I shall no longer … buy it nor view it online. Goodbye.”
Lost cause or no, I felt it only courteous to reply: “I’m sorry that you are leaving and I will be looking at the Guardian’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn to test your theory, but I just wondered whether you’d read this [‘I don’t do personal’, 17 June], or this [No wonder Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents are so rattled, 8 July], or this [Jeremy Corbyn has the one Blairesque trait the Blairites don’t get, 20 July].” These were articles that could be described as showing a measure of support for Corbyn. There was also a piece by Seumas Milne with a sympathetic mention for the Labour leadership contender (There’s no reason to accept austerity. It can be defeated, 18 June).
The reader responded, putting me firmly in my place: “Yes, I’ve read the articles you refer to but they are outnumbered some five to one by the negative reports. Comment is perfectly legitimate, but the sneering, supercilious, specious and dismissive contributions masquerading as ‘commentary’ belittle the claims of a ‘quality’ paper.”
In the early days of Corbyn’s charge, the readers rightly got a sniff that on occasions we weren’t taking him seriously enough. That has changed, and there is still much coverage to go before the ballot closes on 10 September.
Considering today’s attack piece, quoting Chris Leslie, are we really to believe that closing comment?
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