Just recently I granted an interview to someone from a local news agency about my work as a village wisewoman. I was initially reluctant as we had been badly let down by poor reporting in the past. I requested editorial input and specifically asked that my interview would not be offered to any tabloid publications. These conditions were agreed to and the interview went ahead.
Weeks went by and I must admit that it slipped to the back of my mind as I was kept busy by other concerns. However I was brought up short a few days ago by seeing the following headline come up on my news alerts: UK’s only ‘official witch’ puts spell on the tax man and claims expenses for magic – The Daily Star
Not only had the agency reneged on what we had agreed upon, but they had thrown me to the lions by choosing to give the interview to the worst possible tabloid for publication. To say I was incensed would be an understatement! The only positive thing about it was the quality of the photography by a young man called James, sadly we didn’t find out his full name. Since then the story appears to have gone global by appearing in various local newspapers from India to Australia and the Americas.
Once I had calmed down somewhat I realised that the majority of the article remained true to what I had said, but there were some added inaccuracies which were annoyingly left in despite my correcting the interviewer on them earlier. For instance, I have never claimed to be the ‘only official village witch in the UK’ – nor do I cast spells indiscrimately as suggested. However, what truly bewilders me is, why all this sudden media attention and sensationalism about something that actually happened and was reported on 25 years ago? I include a newspaper clipping to prove my point.
So, why I am I surprised I hear some of you saying? Well, quite frankly, it’s not good enough to just let the media off the hook in that way. Why do they report inaccurately, especially when it comes to anything remotely to do with magic or alternative spiritualities or lifestyles. Headlines in particular are often spurious and always sensational in order to attract the worst kind of attention. TV also is just as guilty of this type of behaviour. In the past I have appeared on all sorts of feature programmes about my work as a wisewoman, but almost inevitably the introduction to such footage contains spooky music and/or sound effects – owls hooting and the like. I notice members of the clergy are never accompanied by organ music or heavenly choirs! It’s all so tiresome, unnecessary and belittles the subject matter.
Social media can also be a minefield. As this story spread, so the article appeared on many social media forums and groups. Subsequently we were informed about certain remarks made. Given that most people know that the media often exaggerates and stretches the truth, lots of comments were based on the assumption that it was all accurate, and I was judged accordingly. I joined one such group recently in order to join in the discussion that my article had triggered. Imagine my surprise when my introductory comment was declined. I had assumed that I would have had a right to reply since they were discussing me. Unsurprisingly I didn’t bother staying in that group.
So why do I have anything to do with the media at all? Well, in the past I used media as a platform to help inform and educate the general public about folk magic and paganism in general. I saw it as part of campaigning for human rights. I still have that point of view, but I’m getting too old and cranky to want to have any further dealings with newspapers. Sad really… 😦