“Did you get my press release?” the woman’s voice on the other end of the line asked.
“Err, not sure,” I said. “What’s it about?”
“It’s from the the local health authority,” she said. “And I can’t understand why it hasn’t been picked up as it is a really good story.”
“Send it through to me and I’ll make sure I look at it.” I didn’t want to discuss it on the phone and be kept ages but I promised to look out for it and ring her back once I’d seen what it was about.
The lady duly sent it and I almost choked on my cuppa when I realised it came from the local Smoke Free Alliance bragging about how The Lincolnshire PCT had saved £181,000 in three years from people who, allegedly, no longer had to go to hospital with heart attacks.
Oh, here we go again. I thought. Crap propaganda but as an impartial journalist I am not allowed to take that line and knowing that I could not deal with this story impartially, I passed it on to my newsdesk with an explanation of why I wouldn’t touch that story with a barge pole.
I did ask my newsdesk, however, that if they did feature this story, would they please add balance by either contacting Simon Clark at Forest or the local F2C person who lives in the area. I pointed out how Smoke Free has cost us an arm and a leg and a £181,000 saving in three years is nothing compared to the half a billion pounds of tax payers’ money that has been ploughed into the Smoke Free ideology already.
Newsdesk wasn’t that keen on the story as it happens – even when I pointed out it would make a great feature on the third anniversary of the blanket smoking ban. I have now left the paper as my cover stint has ended and as it is one of the few that does not have an online presence, I’ll perhaps never find out if it got covered or not.
As far as I was concerned, it was yet another fake study aimed at further isolating smokers with the aim of excluding them from accessing health care.
Not all my journalism colleagues on various papers care to be so impartial. They are all too often anti-smoking and not interested in portraying the smoker’s cause. It’s a good job some of us are – even when the story is one that we would rather chuck in the bin where it belongs.
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