The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Well, if I can say a word about constructive tension. Constructive tension is what I was referring to before, the fact that the press and politicians have a quality different role, and if the two meld, it's not going to work properly.

The press' great virtue, as I see it, is that they have a daily pulpit to hold the government and politicians to account. You cannot do that properly or fairly if there's an excessive degree of chumminess between politicians and the media. That is why I think you need a degree of distance between them.

The best of journalists are scrupulously honest. We can't expect every journalist to be among the very best, but the best of them are very good, which is why I reiterate the point: one must draw a distinction between the good, the bad and the ugly when one comes to talk about journalism as a whole.

In terms of the melding of news and comment, I think it has melded to a very great extent. I have quite a lot of sympathy with the press about this. Given the nature of modern communications and 24-hour satellite channels and television channels, there is actually a surprisingly small amount of news, in the classical sense, that it actually comes to the newspapers to launch upon an unsuspecting public. By the time people pick up their newspapers, the news has been absorbed in the early morning breakfast programmes, in the 24-hour satellite programmes.

This presents, it seems to me, a problem for the media. They either reprint what is stale, or they find a new angle to it. Yes, something has happened, but why did it happen? Who was responsible? What is the impact upon people? They'll take an angle and stretch it, because that is all they can do, because the news is stale buns that has already been reported. So I have some sympathy for that.

There is also the secondary point of the melding of comment as though it were news. Ideally, you would keep that apart, and it seems to me that comment in the press falls in several different layers. If I can restrict myself to political comment, which is clearly what I am most familiar with. Some of it, on both sides of the political fence, is excellent. It's very good. You may disagree with it but it's well thought out, well written and it's worth reading.

Some of it -- there are a handful of columnists who are as much into self-promotion as anything else and I think their commentary is barely worth the name, but there is a lot of good comment in the British media, and it melds into news because I think newspapers have little choice but to let it do so.

Year upon year, their readership levels seem to have fallen, and I suspect that trend is likely to continue, with more people reading newspapers online, for example, than actually buying them, and with the growing impact of 24-hour media channels. So here I have a good deal of sympathy for the dilemma that proprietors and editors face.

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