Brown source: Why British political journalists are so full of sh*t about government briefings
... and readers and viewers deserve better
|Mic Wright||Oct 15, 2020||1|
Lee Cane — the former Daily Mirror chicken suit occupant turned Number 10 Director of Communications — and Dominic Cummings, this galaxy’s preeminent human impersonator as well as the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, are also the two most talented ventriloquists in Britain. Need proof? Look how they threw their voices into the mouths of all these political journalists at once. It’s practically magic 👇🏻
It used to be journalistic convention that you accorded anonymity to sources when they were saying something that might put their job, their safety, or the safety of their family at risk. Anonymity wasn’t granted easily and it certainly wasn’t generally a shield from behind which you could throw slurry about opponents or colleagues without fear of having to take responsibility for your words.
Of course, in the piss filled kiddies’ pool of the Westminster Lobby, those rules were always less strict than elsewhere. Political reporters and editors have long doled out anonymity to their favourite sources with the reckless abandon of a panto performer trying to get a restless Wednesday matinee audience filled with murderous school parties on side. And with similarly messy results.
However, in the current Tory-era, and particularly since Dominic Cummings installed himself as the Mr Punch of Downing Street, the use of anonymous briefings has gone from not remotely sublime to outright ridiculous. And the worst coconspirators are two of the most powerful Political Editors in the country, the incumbents at the BBC and ITV, Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston.
While other members of the little gaggle of gossip-minded jabberjaws that comprise the Westminster press pack are as guilty as regurgitating morsels dropped into their maws by Cummings and Cane, UK TV Gold’s shittest detective duo, Kuenssberg and Peston have far more reach and power both on broadcast and social media.
Unfortunately both Peston and Kuenssberg seem to have decided that the criticism they receive for their uncritical repetition of government lines is simply a side-effect of quality reporting. Call it the “Shot By Both Sides” fallacy, which holds that if both left and right hate you then you must be doing something right. That’s idiotic. It could be that there are legitimate criticisms that can be levelled from both sides of the spectrum because you’re… just crap.
Harry Yorke @HarryYorke1@OborneTweets They weren't, Peter. Every lobby journalist received the same quote. Some are just more active on Twitter than others.
This week’s example was particularly egregious because it became apparent that the line punted out by almost all the political editors of both the broadcast and print media came from a government press release.
Using government communication channels to kick out nakedly political attacks on the opposition is against the rules. But as we know Boris Johnson treats the rules with even less respect than he treats wives who are receiving cancer treatment as he trades them in publicly and cruelly for a younger model. Even Alastair Campbell had a solid analysis of the issue — deploy the THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD JUST MADE A GOOD POINT meme — when he said:
Peter Oborne @OborneTweetsThis revelation from Telegraph political correspondent that quote was sent to every lobby correspondent is significant. It suggests a gross breach of civil service guidelines. Government officials cannot be used to smear political opponents. Cab Sec Simon Case must investigate. https://t.co/ACXo5UztOC
There’s a popular canard in journalism discussions that trust in the media has been eroded by populist politicians and the “cesspit” of social media, but while those factors have played a part there’s a much bigger reason — famous and powerful journalists like Kuenssberg and Peston have been shown time and time again to have the analytical abilities of a small dog with a concussion and all the backbone of a Protozoa dragging itself from the primordial ooze.
We know that these Political Editors can be punchy and deliver hard questions, it’s just that they save them for anyone vaguely left wing. I’m sorry if saying all this upsets people in my industry who think journalism is still a cross between Press Gang, Danny Concannon on The West Wing, and that one episode of The Thick of It that’s partially set in a newspaper office, but honestly…
GROW THE FUCK UP.