Sunday, May 27, 2012

How the mainstream media kills stories

I wish I'd known of John Ward before.

In this reminiscence today, he has Andrew Marr effectively burying the Brown antidepressants story by asking him about it - carefully contexted within the eyesight discussion - in a way that Brown could deny, i.e. did he, like many people, take prescription painkillers (semi-muttered addition: "... and pills to help them get through").

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Ward continues:

I emailed Marr three times to ask why he had asked that particular question. I never received a reply. But I did get a phone call from my BBC contact saying, “I’m afraid you’ve learned a lesson today – the use of media aperture to kill a story you don’t like”.

Not to mention super-secret injunctions, when it suits you, Mr Marr; though as a prominent journalist it may also suit you at other times to argue strongly for the right to ask awkward personal questions and demand answers. As he wrote of the late Ruth Picardie back in the 1997 days when "things could only get better":

She was curious. She was rude. She asked awkward, embarrassing questions, including about herself, and didn't flinch from nasty answers. And embarrassing questions are good, the lifeblood of journalism. Without them, we are duller, stupider bipeds.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too severe. Life has a way of hitting us in the face with our own words.

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