IAIN WRIGHT: Negative articles may hit investment

Enjoying the  glorious waether at Seaton Carew
Enjoying the glorious waether at Seaton Carew

It’s August, it’s known as the silly season for many in journalism and you can usually read a load of tripe on the internet, but you will be hard pressed to read more rubbish than an article on Seaton Carew on the vice.com website by a London-based journalist, Sam Tahmassebi.

The article is the worst form of smug, lazy, ill-informed reporting. It perpetuates the notion that it is grim up north. It’s everything I despise about certain types of southerner, usually based in London, often in places like Islington where they have earnest discussions at dinner parties and lament the fact that it must be terrible to live in the North.

The article is entitled Inside the Seaside Town on a Slow and Steady Decline. The reporter seems to have been interested in Hartlepool and Seaton Carew because the town voted to leave the European Union by a large margin, although he doesn’t follow up this line of inquiry. It appears that he came up for an afternoon, had a wander round, took some deliberately negative photographs of Seaton Carew, then escaped back to the comforts of artisan coffee shops as soon as he could.

The whole article is very revealing in terms of the actual purpose and meaning the reporter wants to convey. He tries to give the impression that the place is deserted. For example, one passage in the article states:

“Walking through Seaton in July, it’s easy to see that a) basically everyone is white, and b) it’s a near-ghost town. The stretches of sand beaches are populated largely by elderly dog walkers, joggers and families.”

What is he trying to say here? Is he criticising the ethnic make-up of the town? He appears to be trying to say that the place has no one here, but then goes on to state that the beach has people walking their dogs, jogging and families. Just think about that for a moment – who else would be on a beach in July, or indeed at any other time, other than dog walkers, joggers and families? What on earth is he expecting? And, given that he is trying to say it is a near-ghost town, the combination of dog walkers, joggers and families – a pretty good healthy mix, in my opinion – although I was under the impression that dogs were not allowed on the beach during the summer months.

He mentions at length the sewage system at Seaton Carew, and I think everybody will appreciate the negative connection he wants to make here. He quotes a resident who said that “before they brought in the new sewage system it was busy.” The reporter later learned from “another a [sic] chap at the bar” that previously the sewage was “being dumped incrementally across the beach”.

Again, just think about the logic about that for a moment. Is he seriously suggesting that Seaton Carew was busy until the authorities stopped dumping sewage onto the beach? How nonsensical is that? The new sewage system is actually a £7.7 million investment from Northumbrian Water last year which improves the quality of the water and reduces the risk of flooding for residents. But that, of course, wasn’t mentioned in the article.

In many ways, these sort of articles are irrelevant. They have a circulation list of tens, rather than tens of thousands. Best to ignore them rather than give them publicity. However, there is a deeper, more disturbing point. They perpetuate the clichéd stereotype that is just wrong. It makes it a little bit harder to secure investment if potential backers of projects do an initial internet trawl of articles relating to Seaton Carew. Certainly, there are issues to combat, but smug, conceited and incorrect articles written by people who don’t know the area at all, don’t help matters.