Have you ever wondered why people don’t believe a word they read in
newspapers - or at least heavily discount anything they find in
Well, wonder no more. Allow me to present to you David Yelland, editor
of the Sun, and Geoff Elliott, editor of the News in Portsmouth and the
new president of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors.
First, Mr Yelland. He hasn’t been long in office and there is
speculation he won’t be after his recent performance. He began the week
by asking whether we were ruled by a gay Mafia and ended it by making it
clear that if you want to know you should not expect the Sun to tell
you. Disappearing up his own fundamental mission to disclose, he
announced his newspaper was no longer in the business of ’outing’
homosexuals unless the public interest required it.
We may speculate on the commercial reasons why Mr Yelland decided to let
left-footers lie. But one thing is clear: he is now in no position to
condemn anybody else for dithering. That won’t stop him and it won’t
stop his readers from taking it with a huge pinch of salt. The great
British public sussed out their editors long ago. They think they are
mostly a bunch of pretentious hypocrites worth more as entertainers than
This brings me to Mr Elliott with whom I have occasionally passed a
civil word. I have now had a week to calm down since I read his
presidential clap-trap, reproduced in the Independent, complaining that
’at all levels lying to journalists has become endemic’. He pointedly
added: ’More than ever they (journalists) have to resist the
machinations of the country’s 48,000 public relations officers who try
to steal the news agenda or convert it their employers’ own
Mr Elliott seems incapable of recognising the possibility that
journalists might tell lies, except as the too-willing tools of PROs.
Yet every day they lie to us either by error, omission or commission.
They massage, knead and sculpt the ’facts’ to make them more
interesting. They chronically over-simplify and sensationalise. By
selecting their version of the truth - and Mr Elliott showed us he has
his own unscientific line on the effect of BSE - they automatically fail
to tell the whole of it. I could manure a ranch with the Ratner they
have written - and believe - about me. And, let us not forget, the
media’s files are systems for the perpetuation of lies.
If, after this, Mr Elliott still feels like leading the charge against
the nation’s public relations professionals, why doesn’t he fearlessly
expose the liars among us? After all, he says journalists ’should stick
up for ourselves more’. Or is the unfortunate truth that he can’t do