Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Friday 28 January 2011

Freedom of the press for what?

I spent yesterday at a seminar for journalists organised by the EU's Journalism Network, though the majority of participants weren't from EU countries.
As I listened to how some of them have to work I got the same feeling of inadequacy I do when judging the British Press Awards' Foreign Journalist of the Year.
It is so easy for British journalists compared with those in many other countries, including some in the EU (step forward Hungary, current holder of the EU presidency while installing the most draconian media laws).
So I sat there getting ever more agitated about how we use our freedom and in particular the nature of the stories journalists were after when they hacked into mobile phones.
If they were investigating corruption or criminality, I would defend the practice. But those were hardly the stories they were after from Sienna Miller and her mother, Max Clifford and Graham Taylor, and the doubtless hundreds of other celebrities.
The sheer stupidity of what Clive Goodman did wasn't that he tapped Prince William's phone but that he thought it was worth destroying his life for a "story" about the heir to throne thinking about having acupuncture.
Maintaining the freedom of the press is the most essential defence against despotism, as the experiences of those journalists I listened to yesterday would have made anyone but a despot realise.
But freedom to pursue tittle-tattle about irrelevant people? I don't think so. It gives the politicians itching to control the media, particularly after the expenses exposures, an excuse for cracking down.
The press is its own worst enemy. I have long thought that and finally I may be proved right. Though I hope not.

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