Ian Monk: Mandelson shines a light on spin

Lord Leveson's inquiry into media ethics provides more dark insights into the interface between spin and journalism.

Ian Monk: Mandelson shines a light on spin
Ian Monk: Mandelson shines a light on spin

This week it heard Lord Mandelson noting the press' 'trust in what they are being told is the truth has deteriorated' since he became Labour's director of comms in 1985.

Cue howls of derision from the media at the irony of the statement, coming from the man whose spin they blame for the death of truth.

Mandelson went on to outline the deal between politicians and journalists. It is no different from that brokered by PROs acting on behalf of clients. Journalists want exclusives, while politicians - or any clients - depend on the media to get their message across. Not so much a deal, more a way of life, opined Mandelson.

Yet, he lamented, the relationship between journalists and politicians was now wrecked.

The losers, Mandelson rightly indicated, were the voters who had to depend on the media to make informed democratic choices.

Mandelson shone light on an age where news manufactured to suit voracious media demands too often slips all restraints of fact and becomes simply spin in the hands of PROs. It was a timely insight into a world where mendacity supplants transparency as the stock-in-trade of the politician and his PR team.

The word 'lies' seemed to hover unspoken in the air.

But exposing untruth, deliberate and otherwise, remains a key function of the Fourth Estate, a free press.

It is for that reason that the media represent to Leveson their passionate and democratic belief in the necessity for their own continued freedom. They have addressed serious abuses in pursuit of news.

In response Leveson has acknowledged that whatever his recommendations, they will not include shutting off a free press. His inquiry is trapped in a circle, arguably lacking in virtue, but abundant in its illustration of how the world works.

Thank heavens for the PR business that all parties will need expert comms teams to put their spin on His Lordship's final recommendations.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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