Just imagine for a moment that Tony Blairs farewell pot shot at the media, describing them as a pack of feral beasts , for whom impact is more important than accuracy, had been the words of someone else. What if we couldn't dismiss them as a parting two-fingered gesture in the direction of the people who have been the main opposition to Blair since 1997?
No sooner had I heard Blairs description than a series of images and stories flashed into my head:
- the pack of photographers chasing Princess Diana's car to it's death in a subway
- the outpouring of bile upon Jade Goody after her racism spat in the 'Celebrity Big Brother' house, by newspapers which at other times thought nothing of playing the race card to win the circulation game
- the reporting of the Bob Woolmer story, in which everyone (myself included) was only too willing to believe it was murder rather than something less sensational like natural causes. It was interesting to hear the BBC correspondent on the story on last nights news admitting the media had got it wrong - an early (if muted) response to Blair?
- the reporting of the Madeleine story, the way 'suspects' were seized on and every drop of scandal about their past, alleged or otherwise, dredged up and paraded before the public.
Blair is right, completely, no question. Our media, with a few noble exceptions, no longer serves a sense of vocation, it serves Mammon. The vocation of the journalist - to discover truth, tell people's stories, narrate events - has been undermined and all but destroyed by the pursuit of profit and circulation figures at the expense of all else. The broadsheets are just as captive - the self-congratulatory graphs of circulation figures are a commonplace on pages 1 and 2 of the 'quality' papers.
Blair is also 100% right on the use of pundits on the broadcast news, that there is often more commentary than there is news itself. Maybe I'm the only one, but I would rather hear what Blair, Brown etc. are actually saying than what Nick Robinson of the Beeb actually thinks about it. The pundits present themselves as the media priesthood, they alone give us access to truth and insight, but like the priesthood they become an obstacle to the very thing they profess to offer.
Anyway, if the gloves are now off, and Blair can now say what he really thinks and feels, it could be an interesting couple of weeks.....