Alastair Stewart OBE

Communications is a potent force

Communications is a potent force

If knowledge is everything, ‘communication’ is the means of distribution of a pretty potent force.

Communication is a skill we learn from birth: from the first stroke of a baby’s head, through those endearing cuddles, to the gradual development of our language skills.

Even then, it is a two-way street.

A child feels, hears and senses the signals; gradually, he or she masters the means of response.

Honesty, candour and consistency are at the heart of this process and pivotal to the most important quality of good communications: trust.

From a warning of danger to an expression of unconditional love, the child needs to know that he or she can believe it.

That is an acid-test that isn’t diluted in adult, let alone professional life.

In the helter-skelter world of news, that I have been honoured to occupy for nearly four decades, those yard-sticks of honesty, candour and consistency are crucial.

I am trusted by millions of people to tell them what matters, why it matters and what might be the two or three sides to a contentious story.

If I can’t filter out falsehood I end up telling lies to our viewers; that would be an unforgiveable breach of trust in our pluralist democracy.

Many politicians and business folk spin to their hearts’ content; partisan newspapers can report it, unchallenged, to theirs.

At ITV News we can’t, we don’t want to and we won’t.

I’ve developed a second sense for when I am being lied to, only getting part of the story or being fobbed off with just one side of it; and I know when someone has gone back on something they previously held to be an undeniable, unshiftable truth.

Winston Churchill was once reminded , in the House of Commons, that he couldn’t accuse an Honourable Member of telling a ‘lie’ in the chamber; without pausing for breath, he apologised to the Speaker and, instead,  accused the MP of uttering a ‘terminological inexactitude.’ Clever that WSC.

Whatever you call them, lies are wrong. Communications professionals who seek to distribute them they are guilty of something worse than a ‘terminological inexactitude’: they are guilty of a breach of trust.

Those who get it right tell it like it is; they also tend to decline invitations to do business with people who expect falsehood to be par for the course.

In short, the real ‘professionals’ get it right and thrive; those who don’t may flourish, briefly, but will eventually be exposed for what they are: charlatans, out for a cheap buck.

And they don’t last 20 years.

Well done Orchard.


Alastair Stewart OBE is an ITV News presenter and renowned political expert. His chosen charity is the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. This charity uses horses to raise the education, life skills, well-being and aspirations of young people growing up in some of the most disadvantaged communities in south London.

Photo credit: Shalina Tobin