My text for this week is my judges’ report at the PR Week
Among other things, I said: ’The most frightening news for me as a
journalist is the assumption among the entrants that the British media
can be ’bought’ - seduced by a beautiful bird, a gimmick, a stunt, a
slogan or a soundbite/headline.’ And I added: ’I fear they may be
Journalists are, of course, there to fill the space and, within reason,
have never looked a gift horse in the mouth. The pressure on them to
produce stories has always put them at risk in dealing with the
This and their sympathies have made them particularly vulnerable to
pressure groups. So-called scientists and environmentalists, parading
their prejudices, are allowed to get away with utter codswallop.
All this has occurred even though Watergate bred generations of
journalists driven by conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, many of them
felt that only government in its widest sense was capable of conspiring
against the public good. So, in my experience, they had two laws in the
1980s - one for those attacking the Government for cutting spending
while increasing it; and the other for a hard-faced, gradgrind
In short, I have as much difficulty with the concept of journalistic
objectivity as I have with academic rigour. You can always get the
answer you want by carefully hiring your don. So why should we expect
better of mere scribes? Answer: because they make such a song and dance
about their precious pursuit of the truth. Nothing nauseated me more as
No 10 press secretary, contrasting the different pressures for accuracy
on journalists and on Ministers and civil servants, than the media’s
But things have since got worse for our frank and fearless reptiles.
One reason is the ascendancy of accountants over them in the management
of the media. This has lowered journalistic standards and resistance to
exploitation. Another is the growth of competition which, along with the
dumbing down of society, has produced much more triviality and
The result is that public relations companies think - and some know -
that certain journalists will dance to any seductive tune.
It has also led to the bullying of journalists by PR companies and New
Labour: either you write what we want or forget about future help.
Journalism is now in a debilitated state. My faith in it will not be
rekindled until it begins to treat the new Government, with a majority
of 177, as rigorously as it treated Margaret Thatcher’s with 143. For
the last six months the media have behaved like a kept woman.