“The public has no right to know”: how the Morning Star threatened to sack me for reporting domestic violence allegationsPosted: August 8, 2014
[First published in a guest post at Another Angry Woman. TRIGGER WARNING - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE]
My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.
It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.
If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.
The Morning Star have launched a disciplinary procedure, even though I don’t work for them. Not a smear at all, mind you.Posted: August 11, 2014
I’ve just received a breathtaking letter signed by the head of the Morning Star’s management committee, Bob Oram. I don’t have a scan to hand but it’s some pretty spectacular stuff, all under the scary heading of “Investigation into Matters under our Disciplinary Procedure”.
Apparently on Friday – just hours after Zoe Stavri published my account of how the Morning Star’s senior staff threatened to sack me for covering domestic violence allegations involving a senior union official – the Morning Star decided to stage a further disciplinary procedure against me while acknowledging that I no longer actually work for them:
Gross breach of trust and confidence
Bringing the Morning Star into disrepute
I recognise that you are in your final day of employment and will not be available for interview but I wanted to give you this opportunity to offer explanation or comment on the allegations.”
As the documents I published last week show, the disciplinary procedure over my attempts to cover the Hedley allegations ended with my being given a final written warning with any further perceived breaches resulting in an immediate summary dismissal. So even if you go by the screwball logic Mr Oram’s employing here, their disciplinary procedure demands that they should have sacked me on the spot on Friday rather than drafting this tawdry little threat. There’s no reason – even a stupid reason – for them to carry out this little jig unless the intent is to then publish whatever their kangaroo court comes up with as the clumsiest smear tactic imaginable.
Incidentally, who is Bob Oram? Well, this is how he describes himself on Twitter:
Chair Morning Star Management Committee. Member Cuba Solidarity Executive. Works for, and proud member of campaigning and organising transport union RMT
No conflict of interest there, then!
And no, I have no intention of legitimising this nonsense with a response. I only wish they’d turn their attention instead to the paper’s longstanding policy of suppressing favoured figures’ “personal controversy” even where there are allegations of violence against women.
“Disappointed” is probably the most tired thing you can trot out in a press release, but that’s genuinely how I feel about the Morning Star management’s response yesterday. I’ll reproduce it here for posterity:
In response to recent claims made by Rory MacKinnon — who finishes his employment at the Morning Star on Friday August 8 — the Morning Star completely and utterly rejects the allegations that Mr MacKinnon was disciplined for attempting to raise allegations of domestic abuse.
It is interesting to note that he never formally raised such an allegation until he resigned, while facing further investigations into allegations of misconduct.
For the record, in April 2014 Mr MacKinnon was properly disciplined on charges of breaking the trust and confidence expected of him as a Morning Star reporter and of bringing the paper into disrepute.
The Morning Star wholly rejects Mr MacKinnon’s offensive claims that “the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.”
The Morning Star always has and always will condemn violence against women in all its forms, in the strongest possible terms.
I’ll keep this brief, but the main takeaway is that there’s nothing in this statement of theirs to dispute the comprehensive papertrail I’ve linked to throughout the original post. Nor have they disputed the direct quotes that I have attributed to the Morning Star’s former editor Richard Bagley or former company secretary Tony Briscoe (again with documentation). They can take offense all they like, but they haven’t produced a shred of evidence to contradict me.
As far as formally raising an allegation, I’ve already produced documents showing that my union rep and I vehemently challenged the charges of gross misconduct and took it as far as an appeal hearing. If people are especially eager I’d be happy to jog down to the library and scan the paper’s disciplinary procedure in full, which only grants appeals on narrow technical grounds in any case. Meanwhile I’m at a loss about these “further investigations”, because that statement is the first and only time I’ve heard a single word from management about them. In fact the only contact I’ve had with senior management since giving my notice on 24 July was a phone call from acting editor Ben Chacko earlier this week asking whether I knew anything about a rumour circulating that a reporter had been fired in relation to the Steve Hedley allegations.
I don’t think there’s much more that needs saying here, other than to compare and contrast the Morning Star management’s latest statement with my former employer’s carefully considered judgment.
The Morning Star wholly rejects Mr MacKinnon’s offensive claims that “the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.” - Morning Star management, 08 August 2014
“After three years at the paper you should reasonably be expected to be familiar with the paper’s news priorities, which do not include reporting internal union rows or personal controversy.” - Morning Star editor Richard Bagley, 07 April 2014
Kudos to Edinburgh Eye for a diligent wee investigation. Interesting reading: as they say, either
(a) UKIP parachuted Mr Coburn into Scotland without any real links to the area (which reinforces the popular perception that UKIP has no significant base north of the border) or
(b) Mr Coburn could be getting some unpleasant letters about irregularities in his registration from the Electoral Commission very shortly.
Originally posted on Edinburgh Eye:
Edinburgh is a lovely place to live. (Second on the quality-of-living index for the whole of the UK.) Edinburgh is one of a few cities around the world that are genuinely beautiful.
David Coburn is the list-topper candidate for UKIP in Scotland in the EuroElections on Thursday – Nigel Farage feels “bullish” that Coburn will become one of UKIP’s MEPs after the elections on 22nd May. And, Coburn says, he lives in Edinburgh.
David Coburn was born in Glasgow, and moved to London over twenty years ago: he was working in Kensington in 1993, where he ran the Lexicon School of English, which was dissolved in 1993 by the Companies Registrar after failing to file accounts.
He’s lived in Kensington, W11 at least since 14th August 2006 (from Companies House – he’s been the director of several companies) and he was still living there on 24th April 2014…
View original 1,439 more words
[Note: this was due for publication in today's Morning Star, 22/05/14. But writing for tabloid newspapers is always an exhausting battle to cram vast amounts of information into a word count shorter than your average takeaway menu, and inevitably stuff gets cut for space. Here's what we wanted to print but couldn't.]
by Rory MacKinnon in Glasgow
UKIP’s bid to bolster its presence in Brussels with a Scottish seat hit the buffers again yesterday after protesters scuppered candidate David Coburn’s hopes for a folksy media event in a Glasgow supermarket.
The Morning Star was there as Shettleston Tesco Extra’s management led Mr Coburn away, heckled by the protesters.
Call centre worker Sam Baxter, who joined the protest, said it was important to confront UKIP wherever it appeared: “They spread racist lies, sit in alliance with fascist parties in Europe, and put forward ideas that harm working class people.”
The party’s allies in Brussels proved a thorny issue for Mr Coburn, whose leader Nigel Farage sought last week to dismiss comments by the alliance’s co-president Francesco Speroni praising Norway’s white supremacist mass murderer Anders Breivik for acting on “ideas [that] are in defence of western civilization”.
Mr Farage, who shares the presidency with Mr Speroni, had insisted his party tried to “draw a line”.
When quizzed yesterday, Mr Coburn told the Morning Star that UKIP had “to chummy up with all sorts of strange, weird and wonderful people”.
“In the European parliament in order to get speaking rights, every party whatever they are – the Labour party, the Liberal party, the Conservatives – all have to be in groups with people you wouldn’t want to take home to meet your mother”.
But Mr Coburn appeared unable to explain why UKIP, unlike Britain’s other MEPs, had allied with organisations like Speroni’s Lega Nord.
“There are no other parties,” he said.
Europe of Freedom and Democracy is one of seven active political groupings in the European parliament, with more than 200 parties between them.
Mr Coburn also appeared to falter when asked whether he approved of leader Nigel Farage’s decision to keep wife Kirsten Mehr on his payroll courtesy of parliamentary allowances worth up to £20,000 a year: an activity that the pro-austerity politician infamously listed among “games you could play” to acquire up to £250,000 a year in taxpayer funds.
Yet the European parliament’s officials had ordered MEPs as far back as 2009 to cease the practice in light of a rule change, with all close relatives and partners phased out by the 2014 election.
Mr Coburn initially denied any knowledge of the rules, saying he had “no idea what they are”, before insisting that Mr Farage had acted “according to the rules”.
“The rule is in the next parliamentary term that you’re no longer allowed to. But at this time you are.
“They were allowed to do it and will cease to be allowed to do it as of this year. But they are allowed to do it. Are you suggesting he’s done something illegal?”
“I’m just saying it’s not illegal,” he said.
Penny Arcade co-creator Mike “Gabe” Krahulik has said some pretty terrible things over the past year and is vaguely alluding to them in a post called “Resolutions”. They don’t need the extra webtraffic, so here’s the gist:
As a young person I imagined myself a sort of vengeful spirit. A schoolyard Robin Hood who attacked the strong and popular on behalf of the social outcasts. I’m 36 years old now though and I realize what I am is a bully. I may have been the one who got beat up but I sent plenty of kids home in tears. I also realize that I carried those ridiculous insecurities into adulthood. I still see people who attack me as the enemy and I strike back with the same ferocity as that seventh grader I used to be. I’m ashamed of that and embarrassed. The crazy thing is I don’t even necessarily believe the stuff I say a lot of times. It would probably be more noble if I did. The truth is I just say them to be mean. I say them because I know they will hurt. It’s pretty fucked up.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching this year. I’ve tried to figure out what sort of person I am and what sort of person I want to be going forward. I know I don’t want to be this angry kid anymore. I take medicine to control my anxiety and depression but there is no pill I can take to stop being a jerk. That’s a deeper problem and it’s something I’m working on.
This kneejerk anger is something he’s written about before and as a victim and perpetrator of childhood bullying myself it’s something I can relate to. But there is a very specific reason why I think that, in this particular instance, it’s self-serving horseshit.
Penny Arcade’s biggest hornet nest in 2013 was indisputably the resurgence of the Dickwolves affair, relating to a 2011 strip which angered many rape survivors who felt it trivialised rape as a punchline and perpetuated rape culture (a play-by-play of the whole sorry saga and Penny Arcade’s escalation can be found here. TW: rape, naturally). Presumably Krahulik is at least partly alluding to this.
But his latest mea culpa draws attention exclusively to his anger management problems without ever once acknowledging that Krahulik singlehandedly re-ignited the Dickwolves controversy as an act of wilful cruelty, without provocation or prompting in the cosiest setting imaginable. Read the rest of this entry »