Celebrated journalist and broadcaster, John Humphrys, is on the warpath – enraged that some English universities are suggesting that correct spelling and grammar may be seen as 'white, male and elite'. In an angry rant in his weekly column in the Scottish Daily Mail
, amongst others he lambasts Hull University for warning tutors against 'imposing your own idea of correct English
on student work'.
Hull has said it is dropping the requirement for a high level of technical proficiency in written and spoken English in some subjects in order to 'challenge the status quo'. Humphrys, the Welsh-born ultra-articulate and challenging former host of BBC Radio 4's Today
programme, declares on the Hull warning: '… it takes about 30 seconds to realise that, whatever language you use to express it, this is Grade A nonsense that will achieve the opposite. And what in heaven's name is your own idea
of correct English?
'We get a clue to that from Nottingham Trent University, which wants their academics to give a clear message about whether spelling and grammar are considered important
when they're setting an essay. Perhaps I can save them the trouble. They are not just important. They are vital.'
Humphrys thunders: 'One simple word is missing from Nottingham's little list of desirable qualities. It is clarity. That's why we have language. We need it to communicate. And every language has its own spelling, punctuation and grammar'.
If there really is a crisis in our universities, says Humphrys, it might, perhaps, be traced back to the early 1960s when 'trendy self-styled educationists
' ruled that teaching children the rules of grammar was imprisoning them in linguistic jails run by white males.
'The truth,' he insists, 'as we now know, turned out to be the opposite. We are not imprisoned by grammar. We are liberated by it. Clarity is the enemy of ambiguity and ambiguity is the friend of every politician who has ever tried to pull a fast one on an unsuspecting public. Clarity of communication – enabled by grammar – empowers us'.
Humphrys contends that we rely on our great universities for the new ideas, theories and analyses that will help us create a better world – 'and they need to be articulated with clarity and precision. We need, in every sense, to be able to speak the same language'.
He goes on: 'I can't pretend to be impartial on this topic. I would not be writing in this newspaper today had I not been forced to learn basic grammar before I left school at 15. I got my first job on a local weekly when I satisfied the editor that I could write a grammatical sentence.
'Besides, language is fun,' contends the Welshman. 'We've all heard examples of where sentences have gone horribly wrong. Try these for size – culled from the saintly Radio 4 news bulletins: For the second time in six months, a prisoner has died at Durham jail after hanging himself in his cell
... A suicide bomber has struck again in Jerusalem
. I wonder if the person who nailed this notice on the wall of a public building paused to reflect. It read: Toilets out of use. Please use floor below
. Or a hospital parking notice: Thieves operate in this car park
I am delighted that Humphrys has taken up the cudgels on behalf of all us one-time aspiring journalists who treated the English language – especially spelling and punctuation – as sacred ground. Fortunately, at Dornoch Academy, Sutherland, I had a marvellous English teacher, Miss Florence Strachan, to whom I am eternally grateful to her being almost entirely responsible for my reasonable grasp of the English language.
I am sure that somewhere up there in nirvana, Miss Strachan is fiercely applauding John Humphrys as he tells us: 'We have a universal language. It's called English and it's been pretty successful for a very long time. It would be a grave mistake to abandon it to the woke
and ultimately meaningless notion of inclusive assessment
Tech giants such as Google and Facebook could be required by law to pay UK news organisations for using their stories, according to the UK competition regulator – Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Government ministers have launched a 'tough' new digital watchdog responsible for designing a code of conduct to rein in the power of the big tech's platform. The Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which has been set up within the CMA, aims to address concerns that a small number of tech companies are dominating online advertising to the detriment of consumers and businesses.
The Scottish Daily Mail
reports: 'Google and Facebook also exert huge influence on public opinion by filtering how people read and access news, sometimes to the detriment of quality paid-for journalism. The government will consult this year on the final design of the new regime and the powers the DMU will have, with the aim of bringing in legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows'.
CMA officials have told a House of Lords committee that they were looking to follow the 'general objectives' of the Australian model. Earlier this year, the Australian Government passed a controversial world-first law aimed at making tech platforms pay for news content. The legislation – the News Media Bargaining Code – encourages tech giants and news organisations to negotiate payment deals between themselves. If negotiations fail, an independent arbiter can set the price they pay domestic media, which is likely to benefit news groups.
Daniel Gordon, senior director of markets at the CMA, told UK peers that the 'Australian experience was definitely a good place to start'. He said that, similar to Australia, the DMU's code of conduct would need to be statutory, adding: 'It needs to be enforceable, it needs to be in law'.
The UK Government's Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has already gone on record as saying: 'A strong Press is one of the cornerstones of our democracy in the UK,' and pointed out 'good journalism doesn't come for free'.
has notched up a significant success by having its campaign for better care for the 90,000 people in Scotland currently living with dementia adopted as a manifesto commitment by all the major political parties standing in the Scottish Parliamentary election on 6 May.
At its campaign launch, The Herald
, in conjunction with its sister daily, the Glasgow Times
, called for a manifesto commitment that patients with advanced dementia would no longer be forced to foot the bill for end-of-life medical care.
The SNP pledged, if it is re-elected to government, to take forward the recommendations of the Feeley Report, a major, independent review of adult social care which calls for an almost doubling of free personal and nursing allowances. The other main parties have vowed to go even further to ensure that all end-of-life care costs are free.
editor-in-chief, Donald Martin, commented: 'We are absolutely delighted our campaign has received the backing of all the major parties. Providing free care for dementia patients when they need it most will make a significant difference to so many lives and rights a terrible inequity'.
The new editor of The Scotsman
, former BBC executive Neil McIntosh, has introduced himself to readers in an open letter on 17 April saying the job was 'impossible to resist'. He was the first major editorial appointment by the paper's new owners, National World, since it bought major UK newspaper publisher JPIMedia. At the time of his appointment, McIntosh was managing editor at BBC Online.
He told his readers: 'Not all about The Scotsman
is new to me. I started my career here in the 1990s, writing a weekly column about the internet, and also worked on the Edinburgh Evening News
. Subsequent travels saw me work for The Guardian
, The Wall Street Journal
and the BBC. But with The Scotsman
and its sister titles under the new, ambitious ownership of National World, I leapt at the chance to return.
'As Scotland emerges from the pandemic and makes vital decisions about its future, it was impossible to resist the opportunity to ensure The Scotsman
pursues vigorously its 204-year-old mission to exhibit, as much as possible, the very shape and pressure of the times
He added: 'The last few days have been busy, and full of contrasts. A constant has been the sadness at the Duke of Edinburgh's death, and preparation for his funeral today. But there has also been the happy anticipation of the relaxation of lockdown across Scotland, and the growing pace of vaccination here. Hope springs eternal, this spring'.