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The Media: Friend or foe?

Sarah Tucker shares her experiences on a panel discussing the outcomes of Leveson

 

Journalist and author Sarah Tucker was one of the panelists at a talk at the Richmond Literary Festival on Thursday evening. By chance, since it coincided with the publication of the Leveson Report, the panel’s discussion naturally focused on that. Here Tucker share her thought in an article first published on her own blog:

 

Will the outcome of Leveson change the media?

I was in excellent company last night as part of a panel at the Richmond Literary Festival that felt almost weirdly timed to coincide with the day of the Leveson announcement.

 

I appeared on a panel with Sir Trevor MacDonald (who needs no introduction, but got one any way), the editor of the Sheengate Titles, Richard Nye; Claire Fox, the director of the wonderfully named Institute of Ideas (which I thought sounded like something out of Hogwarts) and Matthew Syed, illustrious columnist, Times writer and former Commonwealth table tennis champion (I wanted to ask him about table tennis but felt it oddly irrelevant in context of the debate). We discussed if the media were ‘friend or foe’ (though it wasn’t specified ‘to whom’) this of course had been perfectly timed to coincide with the Leveson findings. It was pure fluke but that’s timing for you.

 

Sir Trevor felt Leveson would change nothing. Everything, he suggested, would be bogged down in committees and sub committees and nothing would be done. Ever. Fox and Syed felt if statute was put in place, it would potentially be very dangerous especially if you had the likes of Blair or Thatcher in charge again or some lesser megalomaniac.

 

As for my view, I think the politicians are playing a game. They are losers all of them, we are the biggest ones (the punter, the voter, the onlooker), but to think they could come out and out say one way or another would be a nonsense and would take a great deal of courage, which they don’t have.

 

When I look at politicians now I think of them as actors upon a stage, not meaning anything they are saying, not even understanding most of it, just reciting it. I don’t feel contempt because it takes courage to get up on that stage. And Sir Trevor noted that many journalists and reporters now treat politicians with barely restrained contempt when they interview them. As he noted, at least politicians enter the process to do something of good for their community (although I think some do enter it for ego), something you can never say about those who work in the city.

 

Sir Trevor McDonald OBE

And who will be in this ‘organisation’ that will monitor the press?  Who on earth, on this earth, is so honourable, so without fault, so incorruptible to be considered for this position? A politician? No. A banker?  You’re joking. A policeman. Perhaps.

 

I think you need a ‘common man’, or woman who has a sense, a common sense and an ability to see through the emperor with no clothes phenomenon of what is bullshit and what isn’t, what is in the public interest and what isn’t. It isn’t someone who has risen to the top. If this year has proved anything the shit rises to the top more regularly than the cream does. Although I must say I do like Eddie George. I think his contempt for the city mirrors that of my own, but then he deals with them on a daily basis so that’s understandable.

 

In many ways the media has been it’s own worst enemy. Editors allowing for lazy journalism – the recent article about Canada in The Telegraph being an example. I met the head of PR for Canada in the UK for lunch this week and she despaired that they usual cliché about Canadians came up without anything relevant or up to date on a country that had a government which managed to manage their bankers – something our politicians have not.  As she commented: “It’s harmless but it’s pathetic.”

 

Then there’s the phone hacking which hacked into ‘common man’ rather than celebrity, who I am afraid I have absolutely no sympathy with. That includes the royals, both the young and old. They are sold to us as though we know them. We don’t have a clue who they are. We just think we do.

 

Editors encourage journalists to get stories, to hit the negative angles because they are told ‘it makes better news’ and people are more interested in bad news than good. I think it’s been proven somewhere, with stats or something, but then so have a lot of other things which also turn out to be rubbish. And all media are businesses so their bottom line is more important than anything else. Associated Papers are making money, The Times is running on a subsidy, the rest of the papers I think are losing money. The BBC may have been dented but they are respected around the world and like the NHS should not be tampered with. They should not be interested in profit and should aim in their production values at all times and at all cost. Every panelist agreed on that point.

 

The weave between the institutions of the police, the law, the church, the city, the media, the royals, the politicians has become so entwined. This is like a lover’s tiff that will pass over because the end game is more important. There is too much money, too much power and far far too much ego invested in these institutions for morality and integrity to get in the way of profit.

 

This has been a year of revelation but not revolution. And if it were it would be the wrong heads that would roll.

 

Sarah Tucker is an award winning travel journalist, novelist, producer and broadcaster. She has edited, produced and presented her own radio and TV series as well as presenting reports for BBC Holiday Programme and anchored I Want That House on ITV. She is the author of best selling novels The Playground Mafia (short listed for the Good Housekeeping book of the year 2007) The Battle for Big School, The Last Year of Being Single, and The Control Freak Chronicles.

 

For more information about Sarah Tucker, go to: http://www.sarahtucker.info

 

Buy The Playground Mafia on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Playground-Mafia-Sarah-Tucker/dp/0099498456/ref=sr_1_7/202-9265101-5575054?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193856472&sr=1-7

 

Follow Sarah Tucker on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/madasatucker

 

 

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