Peter Hoskin

Alastair Campbell vs. the media

Alastair Campbell vs. the media
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During his time at 10 Downing St, there were few better than Alastair Campbell at sparring with the press.  But now the sparring's become a full-blooded assault.  He writes a forceful piece in the Times on the media's involvement in Britney Spears' downfall:

"The question is whether there is any room within media judgements about what is news, and how to pursue it, that allows room for a basic humanity about the condition of the people who are the media commodities. You do not have to be a qualified psychiatrist to see that Spears has serious mental health issues. Does there ever come a point where a judgment forms that says, let's just leave her alone? Even as I pose the question, I can hear the weary sighs of hard news men and women wondering whether I have gone soft. I can imagine, too, the shrugs of all those with a vested interest in the Britney industry being maintained as a great soap opera that still sells her music, her videos and all the attendant paraphernalia.

But being a hard-nosed journalist or businessman does not require you to suspend basic humanity. There were times when I felt Tony and Cherie Blair were moving in the media mind towards that Britney/Diana/Madeleine/Beckham group. Once or twice, I felt myself on the receiving end of a form of journalism utterly devoid of humanity."

All of which extrapolates on the "culture of negativity" theme which dominated Campbell's recent Cudlipp lecture.

Of course, Campbell's arguments may not be new, but - given that he's such a seasoned commentator - they certainly deserve attention.  Besides, they also form part of a growing tidal swell against press methods.  Nick Davies' new book - Flat Earth News - treads similiar ground, and it's the subject of an excellent review by Peter Oborne in the latest Spectator.  As Oborne puts it, such potent critiques stand as a call for media "action and reform".