Peacock presenter needs to keep on ruffling feathers

8 Aug 2014

Channel Four News presenter Jon Snow, wearer of colourful ties and equally outlandish socks, assaults our fashion sense most weekday evenings. 25 years anchoring the nightly news show, and it’s his soliloquy for the children of Gaza, not his sartorial choices, which has split opinion amongst his journalistic brothers and sisters.

You will read other blogs as to where the blame lies for the current Israeli-Gaza conflict. This is not the purpose of this piece, except to say that this was always an unequal conflict and the response by the Israeli army has been disproportionate. They will win the military battle but they have lost the support of the international community, propped up only by an embarrassed USA.


I don’t know what burning flesh smells like; nor can I recognise the stench of litres of congealed blood. I have not felt the ice cold marble forehead of my murdered child. I have not cowered under the desk of UN schools, sheltering from USA and UK funded missiles. I have not had my land stolen. So how could I understand the pain and hopelessness of that mother, father, child and teacher? I watch the brave TV crews, risking their lives each night, with an increasing sense of hopelessness, but also with a growing feeling of unease at their semi-detachment from the death and destruction that surrounds them. I wanted a broadcast journalist to confirm what most of us watching already knew - that what was happening in Gaza was wrong. I wanted these distinguished reporters to reveal something of themselves. It took Jon Snow to do just that.

His detractors, notably David Lyon in this powerful piece for the Guardian, say that the news veteran crossed a line by introducing opinion, even emotion, into his reporting of the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. His backers, me included, simply say that he brought the Gaza story to life. For this viewer, he painted a picture in full, bloody colour. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Snow took his cue from his newspaper colleagues and said: “this has to stop”. I don’t believe that compromises his objectivity, it doesn’t make him anti-Israeli. It makes him human. Snow is putting into practice “the journalism of attachment” – a phrase used by former BBC reporter, Martin Bell, 20 years ago. 

What really hacked off some hacks was the style and directness of Snow’s appeal – direct to camera, from the Channel Four News studio, admittedly broadcast on YouTube and not the main channel, due to some archaic regulations, but it went viral. It worked. Snow is given a long lead by ITN bosses and I suspect some are rather jealous of that fact. 

Snow’s critics are spectacularly missing two points. 1. All journalism is subjective. 2. There are no rules.   

There’s also another, under-reported explanation as to why the veteran chose to appeal to viewers’ hearts as well as their minds. He was filling a void left by timid, senior politicians in the UK and elsewhere, who were slow to condemn the torrent of USA and UK funded missiles raining down on civilians. They cynically waited to see how many more bodies were blown to bits, before heading to the microphones. Not for the first time, commentators like Snow were leading, and politicians were following.

A sober footnote: At the time of writing, 11 journalists have been killed in action, covering the latest Israeli-Gaza conflict. This is dedicated to them and all journalists seeking the truth in places of war and conflict. 

By Gary Rae

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