DIARY: Hue and cry as media hounds try to put each other down

Have you noticed how much dog eats dog these days? You’d think we lived in Korea or somewhere which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘a dog’s dinner’. Private Eye has, of course, been lubriciously at it for years. The wolf pack I dealt with in No 10 was often far more interested in the source and the journalists used by it than the story. This explains partly why ‘spin doctors’ now seem more important than their principals.

Have you noticed how much dog eats dog these days? You’d think we lived

in Korea or somewhere which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘a

dog’s dinner’. Private Eye has, of course, been lubriciously at it for

years. The wolf pack I dealt with in No 10 was often far more interested

in the source and the journalists used by it than the story. This

explains partly why ‘spin doctors’ now seem more important than their

principals.



The Daily Mail recently mounted an attack on the alleged moral hypocrisy

of the Independent’s Polly Toynbee, which promptly turned avenging guns

on the Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre. The Independent Television Commission

has, very unwisely in my view, criticised Trevor McDonald’s too friendly

fire in his ‘exclusive’ and heavily-edited ITN interview with John

Major.



The BBC often puts on a passable imitation of a quarrelsome kennel. But

I had not realised that it had gone rabid until, returning from holiday,

I found its Scottish head, Colin Cameron, apologising profusely for

publicly criticising reporter Kate Adie’s ‘tone’ in covering the

Dunblane disaster.



This is not to mention Panorama reporter John Ware attacking Esther

Rantzen’s new campaigning programme The Rantzen Report in the Sunday

Telegraph for its ‘potential for seriously damaging the BBC’s reputation

for fair-minded journalism’. Ms Rantzen, of course, promptly defended

herself, courtesy of the Independent. The BBC has felt it necessary to

inquire into the whole affair. Claims to ‘fair-minded journalism’ are

always worth close examination.



The PR industry may well feel that this splendid spectacle of dogs

savaging dogs should be encouraged. After all, while they are tearing

each other apart, they won’t be sinking their teeth into PROs or

lobbyists - unless the dirty dogs abandon the principles of a lifetime

and employ an agent to put over their case.



There is also something to be said for the media’s self-criticism since

many people are persuaded that they are now more powerful than

politicians. If so, you may feel that it is about time journalists and

their output were subject to the closest scrutiny. It’s not a bad start

to have the dogs gnawing at each other’s bones.



I am frankly surprised that modern politicians, accused of every kind of

‘sleaze’ by a sea-green incorruptible media, have not taken up Baroness

Barbara Castle’s 30-year-old idea that hacks should declare their

interests, too.



But, before we go a bundle on all this, might it not be better to take

journalists back to first principles. They are, or should be, only the

means to an end - the accurate and fair reporting of what is going on in

this world. For God’s sake, don’t encourage us in our delusions of

grandeur.



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