Saturday, February 04, 2012

Every picture tells a story

In The Guardian we find an update to the long-running story about Falmouth and the dredging of the maerl beds, necessary for the development of the port, blocked by the EU habitat directive.

Unsurprisingly, the europhile Guardian, with its eco-friendly inclinations, wishes to present this story in the most sympathetic light. Thus it uses a picture of a the picturesque old harbour with the distinctly alarmist caption (against a headline of similar ilk), asserting that developers hope giant cruisers will be able to visit it, once the waters of the bay are dredged.

Turn the camera round, though, and you will see the commercial docks (above), which are the actual focus of development, with their cranes, dry dock and warehouses. This is the commercial heart of the town, and its economic hub, which brings much-needed work and which needs to expand to stay competitive.

Yet, despite the very obviously industrial landscape, the paper goes on to paint a false picture, telling us that Falmouth Bay is "one of England's finest stretches of marine habitat, with a profusion of creeks that penetrate deep into the heart of the Cornish countryside, and oak woods covering the coastline".

It is, adds the paper, "a distinctive, unspoiled landscape, protected by strict environmental legislation and enjoyed by thousands of tourists every summer".

Then the knife goes in as it tells us that "the tranquillity of Falmouth could soon be disrupted". A "controversial plan to dredge a channel through part of the bay to open up the port to giant cruise ships has caused consternation among conservationists".

Whatever the merits of the scheme, which involves dredging the existing approach channel from about 15ft depth to about 25ft, the picture used, the caption and then the story completely misrepresents the issue, creating a false impression of the nature of the scheme.

The most vivid impression, though, is created by the picture, presenting the image of the beneficent EU reaching out to protect England's coastal heritage. And, of course, the camera never lies … but this newspaper does.