Magazine article The Spectator

Pressuring the Press

Magazine article The Spectator

Pressuring the Press

Article excerpt

GUARDIANS OF POWER : THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA by David Edwards and David Cromwell Pluto, £14.99, pp. 241, ISBN 0745324827 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

I feel I ought to start this review by letting the authors know that I will not enter into correspondence with them.

However much they might loathe what I am about to say and wish to bombard me with emails ridiculing my reasoning, I regret to tell them that I will be far too busy to respond. That might look like a weird intro to a review, until you realise that the authors being reviewed -- David Edwards and David Cromwell -- run a pressure group called Medialens which is in the business of berating journalists (and encouraging others to do likewise) for their perceived prejudices. Medialens is like a radical leftist version of Ofcom, an unelected outfit that presumes the authority to lecture reporters and broadcasters, usually via email, about their shortcomings. This book provides a snapshot of the two Davids' guerrilla campaigning over the past five years, during which they have publicly upbraided some of this country's leading journalists.

The most gobsmacking thing is how many journalists respond to the authors' green-ink antics. This collection republishes emails from Andrew Marr, Roger Alton, Nick Cohen and others, defending themselves, often at length, against Medialens' accusations of bias. There is a truly cringeworthy email from the Guardian's environment correspondent Paul Brown, who responds to claims that he has played down the corporate world's attempts to smash the environmentalist movement by insisting that he is in fact so pro-green that questions have been asked of his professional judgment:

We have sympathetically reported boycotting Exxon/Esso, Shell and other corporations ... to the point where our balance as reporters has been questioned by our own editors not by outsiders. I think George Bush and his supporters are the most dangerous and nasty people on the planet . . . but if I am to be effective as a journalist I have to protect myself [by] sticking to basic journalistic rules about balance.

Oh dear. So keen is Brown to demonstrate his greener-than-thou credentials to Medialens that he reveals that his own editors think him suspect and admits to seeing objectivity as little more than a cover -- 'protection' -- for his political views.

Yet beneath the authors' self-righteousness and the various targeted journalists' self-loathing (one thanks Medialens for pointing out the weakness of his reporting on Iraq and says he hopes he hasn't 'reinforced your propoganda [sic] model view of everyone who works for the corporate-owned media? …

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