During a 39-year career in journalism our Editor, Welshman, Phil Parry has always known the importance of words, and this has now been thrown into sharp relief by revelations that the cliché “witch-hunt” was used yet again, this time by the controversial former US President Donald Trump, as he defended himself in the latest legal scandal to engulf him and his business dealings.
He has looked at how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
After disclosing why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis, as well as showing that the concept of ‘news’ might be changing forever, here he looks at the fact that words for journalists are critical while others bandy them about apparently without thinking.
It’s been done AGAIN!
The cliché “witch-hunt” has been wheeled out once more, this time by the headline-grabbing egomaniac Donald Trump, as he tried to sling mud around denigrating the New York Attorney General Letitia James, after she announced the culmination of a three year investigation into his business dealings, with details of how he will now face a civil lawsuit for fraud.
Apart from that lawsuit, Mr Trump is also in deep trouble over the US Capitol riot on January 6 2021. The congressional panel investigating that deadly attack has voted to subpoena him.
It was a unanimous vote and the former president will now be compelled to give evidence to the committee about the events which saw five people killed and more than 140 police officers injured. The committee said he is “required to answer for his actions”.
This term “witch-hunt” is normally used by people who are flailing around, after they have been caught out.
A ‘super-agent’ in the tragic case of the transfer to Cardiff City of footballer Emiliano Sala also stood accused of fraud, but claimed he, too, was victim of a “witch-hunt”, and it has been deployed in the extraordinary controversy at scandal-hit Swansea University (SU), where the police investigated alleged bribery in a multi-million pound land deal, and senior officials including the one-time Vice-Chancellor (VC) Richard Davies, were sacked for “gross misconduct”.
The disgraced, but then re-instated to UK cabinet, ex-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has used the phrase, and the contentious former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has employed it as well, as protests erupted in the country’s capital against corruption and fraud.
The Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu began an astonishing trial accused of corruption after also accusing his detractors of orchestrating a politically motivated “witch-hunt” against him.
He was in court in the first criminal trial ever against a sitting Israeli leader. He had tried to pass laws that would have granted him immunity from prosecution, but failed to gain the necessary majority.
Meanwhile, although misspelt, support was clear in the supposed ‘witch-hunt’ at SU for controversial ex-Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) Hilary Lappin-Scott who, we exclusively revealed, has left. An unbelievable anonymous campaign in her defence was undertaken using gmail or email, with messages sent to staff at the university as well as senior journalists (including me) and Welsh politicians. One message said: “Only Hillary (sic) can save Professor Boyle (new Vice-Chancellor [VC] at SU) from the same incompetents that undermined Richard Davies’ stellar transformation of your Institution for the Region”.
Another read: “Last week’s email was blocked – here it is below for completeness’ sake. Ask yourself: what else is the leadership keeping from you?… Why is this witch hunt therefore still continuing?”.
But The Eye have shown how Professor Lappin-Scott had enraged her own staff at the time, by sending tweets from glamorous parts of the world on university ‘business’, and her exploits became the subject of our satirical writer. Despite this, the anonymous communications have claimed in the past that Professor Lappin-Scott would lead the university to “an era of gold and honey”.
Apart from the suspension of Professor Davies, the Dean of his School of Management, Marc Clement, was also dismissed and placed under investigation, as well as several other top-level officials during the astonishing ‘witch-hunt’ inquiry into the multi-million pound Llanelli ‘Wellness Village’ land deal where the police were called in.
The troubled institution confirmed that apart from looking into the campaign itself, the police were involved in investigating alleged bribery during the so-called ‘witch-hunt’.
An official statement from Swansea’s ‘Associate Director Vice-Chancellor’s Office, Head of Legal and Compliance Services’ stated : “Alongside the University’s internal disciplinary process, there is also on-going police involvement (i) with regard to the issues uncovered during the University’s investigation; and (ii) anonymous communications sent to University staff relating to the suspensions and disciplinary processes. The matters under investigation are very serious. The University has invested a significant amount of resource investigating the alleged misconduct, as have the authorities. It is essential that nothing is done to undermine the on-going processes. They must be allowed to run their course without interference.”
This statement included another libellous message in the anonymous computer campaign which was sent from the invented address ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’, with an earlier one dispatched to staff at the institution concerning an awards ceremony, saying: “… your Registrar (Andrew Rhodes) was shamelessly picking up Prof Richard Davies’s award – clearly he made (ex-Pro Vice-Chancellor [PVC]) Hillary (Lappin-Scott) stay at home”, adding: “I am sure you will all join me in congratulating him (Professor Clement).“
The university’s response to the unidentifiable computer communications read: “The below email has been referred to the police to consider, together with the previous anonymous emails that the University’s staff and others have received”.
The stunning ‘witch-hunt’ campaign at the scandal-hit university also formed a worrying backdrop to an exclusive disclosure on The Eye, that officials had employed a fraudster (the word ‘fraud’, as in the allegations against Mr Trump, seems to crop up almost as much as ‘witch-hunt’) called Steve Chan who used to work on a contract at the management school, and after they were alone in revealing that a previous Dean there accused of bullying had died.
They showed how Chan had even represented the university in advising an international agency on the ways to combat fraud.
Chan had been imprisoned by a court in Boston for four years and three months, and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation. His jail term was followed by three years of supervised release, after he admitted one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of mail fraud, he was also ordered to pay restitution of $12,596,298.
But the campaign inside SU alleging a ‘witch-hunt’ has been covered only partially by the mainstream media, and was conducted after the incredible investigation was launched.
In part, one recent gmail to staff as well as the Chair of the SU council read: “Why are these things happening and being leaked to Sion Barry (the Western Mail Business Editor) and, in turn, Phil Parry (someone trolling Professor Hillary [sic] Lappin-Scott) whilst in the middle of an independent internal investigation?”.
Another added: “Appended below you can find the previous installments (American spelling) and claims there has been “A trial by media, a kangaroo court, a selection of evidence and suspensions before interviews – almost as if the facts were at odds with the desired outcome”. Although again misspelt a further gmail was clear in the search for a new VC: “Please Hillary (sic) (Lappin-Scott) out (put?) your hat back in the ring!”.
But university officials have been less keen than the person behind the anonymous computer campaign to give The Eye information – this time about Chan’s background, and my journalists have been told in the past that our questions about him in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been refused on the grounds they were “vexatious.
Four of the questions asked in the FOIA were:
- What was the exact date that Professor Steve Chan of the School of Management registered for his Ph.D at Swansea University?
- What was the exact date that he undertook his viva voce examination for his Ph.D?
- Who were the members of his Ph.D viva committee (including external examiners)?
- Who approved the appointment of the supervisors for his Ph.D?
With all this controversy swirling around in the background, SU staff have told journalists on The Eye they are amazed by the university’s ranking in recent tables, and that Professor Davies had offered ‘good value for money’ before he was sacked.
They have reacted to them by pouring scorn on some of his comments which have been reported in the mainstream media, in particular Professor Davies’ remarks about Mr Rhodes and SU Chair Sir Roger Jones. The Eye have received observations such as “this is TV police drama stuff”.
Among Professor Davies’ statements in the grievance letter which was published, are the lines that after the meeting at which he was suspended, he was followed by Sir Roger and another member of the University Council to his room, “Sir Roger Jones acted as the ‘soft cop’ and (the other supervisory member of the council) as the ‘tough cop’.
“When in my room, both put pressure on me to agree to a deal. I resisted resolutely and made it clear that the accusations were without substance and that I would fight to clear my name. There is a clear inference here that the only reason Sir Roger … followed me to my room to offer me a deal was because they knew that these allegations were unfounded and disingenuous and simply wanted to avoid a full investigation through which they knew I would be exonerated.” The BBC reported that: “Swansea University’s suspended vice-chancellor says he has been ‘left out to dry,’ in a letter of grievance.”
‘Left out to dry’ is another cliché, but not as bad as ‘witch-hunt’…
Phil’s memories of his remarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism (when clichés like ‘witch-hunt’, were NOT used!) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now.
Tomorrow – how in using words that are not clichés, Phil breaks stories and investigations follow.