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Talking to Guido

Nick Robinson | 17:21 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2007

That'll teach me. I agreed to be interviewed for a film which will be shown on Newsnight tonight made by the man behind the Guido Fawkes blog. I've just watched it on the web - as can you.

Guido's logoPlenty of political junkies like me do read and enjoy Guido's blog despite the fact that he spends much of his time telling his readers how spineless we in the mainstream media are. That's the theme of his film tonight. His central claim is that broadcasters need access to politicians so we pull our punches.

Attempting to engage with him in a grown up way I told "Guido" the truth. Namely, that in order for specialist journalists (whether health or legal or political reporters) to know their subject inside out they have to build working relationships with those they report on. Having worked at Panorama for some years, I know that it is sometimes easier for someone coming from outside to make the big "mother of a blow out" investigation without fear of burning their contacts. I went on to argue that this does not stop me asking the big and tough questions when they need asking.

Silly me. "Guido" uses my interview to argue that I don't "need to be so craven" and that "I should worry less about my relationship with politicians and more about my relations with viewers".

So what's my answer to him? Grow up. It the job of broadcasters to report politics in the round. Sometimes that means confronting, challenging and probing politicians. At other it involves reporting, explaining and bringing to life what politicians are trying to do for those who elect them. There will always - thank god - be a role for partisan, campaigning or satirical reporting of politics elsewhere. However, it will almost always build on or react to what's on the mainstream media. For example, if they want to comment on what Gordon Brown's planning to do as prime minister they'll rely on someone who can talk to him and those around him to find out.

Different folks... different strokes. I'll keep reading Guido and, if he's honest, he'll admit he watches us obsessively and feeds off what we do.

PS: Much more stimulating is a lecture by Charles Clarke on New Labour and the Media, which reflects his frustration that his efforts to kick start a debate about what Labour should do in the future is seen entirely through the prism of whether he, or anyone else, will challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership.

You will be able to read his text here once he's stood on his feet at 7:30 pm.

UPDATE: Click here (word document) to download the text of the speech.


  • 1.
  • At 06:34 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Mark Ryan wrote:

Of course you would say that Nick, wouldn't you? A bit like the back benchers who vote for policies with which they don't agree with their career in mind, you're part of a closed institution (an industry) that rewards its "employees" for the maintenance of the status quo.

Since Gilligan and the public disembowelling of broadcast journalism even the best of you has taken note of what happens when you mess with "them". You were given a lesson in who your masters really are and few have been brave enough to dissent. I don't blame you really as there is a lack of will and direction right from the top of your Government funded organisation - and you've seen what happens when push comes to shove. Thanks for being honest enough to let us know it is a career call though.

I would say the Public are the ones who have lost out from all this but that would imply that we were ever winners, or indeed even involved, in the process.

  • 2.
  • At 07:09 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Alice wrote:

I think you've got a fair point Nick. There seems to be a widespread belief at the moment that all politicans and lobby journalists are involved in some sort of conspiracy that stems from a deep-seated, ingrained bias in news organisations.
Yet you can't just have people like Guido being our source of news, for what he does (although interesting) is not relevant to the lives of most of, and he is not bound by the legal constraints that mainstream media are.
Surely the best thing is to have varying sources of news: different channels, papers, blogs etc- each person has their own mind and the individual ability to reach their own opinions on things.
It's a sad state when not only do we think that all politicians are liars, but that they are also in cahoots with journalists.

Hit a nerve did he Nick?

You basically accept his central charge is correct.

When I watch you from now on I'll know that you pull your punches. Too many of you political journalists pull your punches with the result we have a political class that has no one to keep them honest.

I want someone who doesn't pull his punches - someone like Guido.

  • 4.
  • At 07:59 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Tom Wilkinson wrote:

This sounds rather like a case of guilty as charged.

  • 5.
  • At 08:16 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • bill wrote:

"PS: Much more stimulating is a lecture by Charles Clarke..." LOL.

  • 6.
  • At 08:30 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • GUIDO for PM wrote:

If it weren't for the likes of guido fawkes certain journalists could get away with acting as unofficial government spin doctors

  • 7.
  • At 08:30 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • John Galpin wrote:

Well the politicians need the media as much as the media need the politicians so there are bound to be complex issues of mutual self interest in both promoting stories, or aspects of them conflicting with others of self preservation when one side tries to smother stories which the other wishes to tell. It will never be perfect for all of the people all of the time.

The bigger difficulty for me comes with the "editorial control" and the "line" which a particular journalist chooses to make "stand up". On the rare occasions I find the time to get the same story from several commentators I often wonder if it really is the same story. The emphasis and significance of particular elements are often starkly opposed, primarily by what the journalist chooses to leave untold. It isn't just politicians who can be economical with the truth.

How often are we presented in News and Current Affairs programmes (the two become increasingly indistinguishable) with a highly slanted one or two minutes introduction from a presenter and an interviewee then given a couple of abrasive questions, often with the answers being interrupted, to try and explain no its not quite like that? All of this conducted to the beat of an unseen and certainly non transparent editorial agenda. It's not only the politicians who can have a spin to their presentation. The existence of this unshared editorial policy inevitably begs the question of whether there is a "larger" BBC agenda which by the choice of editors, producers, unspoken employment practices etc. effectively creating a culture controls information flow balanced more in the interests of those in power than those of us who pay for it all. Actually the sort of hatchet job Guido is doing on you and some others is mild compared to the slanted interviews I regularly see BBC interviewers do. As a perhaps less personal example much of the recent BBC reporting of the Budget the opposition parties presentations were cut short in favour of studio analysts comments. Since when were studio analysts views more important than those of elected members of Parliament? Then Gordon Brown was given a very easy ride as to why he was making the poorest pay more tax or why child poverty has risen under his tax regime both by those who interviewed him and by loss of opposition questions.

Sorry but I do sometimes wonder who the BBC are serving.

'Guido' is as spineless as they come. Every time he has been asked to put up or shut up, he has run away and/or hidden behind the anonymous bullies that hang around his website.

  • 9.
  • At 08:48 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • gwenhwyfaer wrote:

Everyone has their own agenda, Guido included. If you're taking anyone's word for it, even his, rather than doing your own research amongst all viewpoints, then you've pretty much given up your right to criticise "establishment" journalists for not exercising due diligence.

Indeed, harsh questions should be asked of any journalist who appeared to be more of a nuisance to other journalists than to the wielders of power.

  • 10.
  • At 09:12 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

I took one look at the Guido Fawkes blog, and it’s not my sort of thing. I’m sure there’s a place and audience for it, but I prefer something more solid and easy going, and Nick Robinson’s blog is good enough for that. He’s informative, is good at picking the main issues and keeping up some element of surprise, and has developed a respectful and human tone over the time he’s been writing it.

I’m happy enough that Nick has written similar pieces to conclusions I’ve come to or had earlier commented on. I’m not sure whether that fits anyone ideas of relationship but I’ve found it interesting, useful, and supportive. The same is true of other journalists, like Polly Toynbee or Steve Richards, and some of the comments that people have taken time to add to Nick’s topics.

I have been a fierce critic of Nick, in the past, and stopped watching broadcast news because of his performance, but his coverage of news events in his blog, with its insights and touching observations do connect and raise morale in journalism, politics, and basic simple humanity. I think, that’s important. None of us is an island. We all stand and fall with each other. Nick’s doing fine.

I think there is certainly something to be gained from being an "outsider" reporting on events/people. I like reading Guido's blog, but I accept that he, like most other political bloggers have a political agenda. That is part and parcel of reading blogs: opinion is generally (not always) part of a blog.

That said, I equally value the service that BBC reporters like you, Nick, provide to the country. You strive to put forward a neutral point of view and ask hard questions that you think the viewers would want to ask.

The problem is that it is physically impossible for any person to be completely, 100% objective. By developing any kind of relationship with anyone you report on, you are creating a relationship. Therefore, it is impossible for you to not impart some sense of subjectivity onto the situation. I am sure that BBC reporters are obliged to negotiate to a certain extent with the people they report on, in order to maintain this relationship. In some sense, that is wrong.

If you accept that, then it is impossible for anyone to argue that professional journalists are "objective". Objective implies complete centralisation of all viewpoints; it implies that the reporter has a zero relationship with that person; it implies something that is not human.

My feeling is that the BBC should embrace subjectivity. Embrace the concept of allowing people to ask politicians intensely partisan questions. The real battle is giving equal view time to these opinions, and airing these views to the same extremes at both ends of the spectrum.

At the moment I feel that the BBC is trying to shoot for the bullseye and achieve complete objectivity, when the bullseye does not exist.

  • 12.
  • At 09:16 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • aralio wrote:

I love Guido's blog, although it's not my political slant but I strongly support you here Mr Robinson. Much as people might malign the 'mainstream' it is important - very important - to have one!

Thought you made your point well.

However, give who you work for I don't think you can complain about editing and follow on commentary.

And you shouldn't anyway, as you summed up your point with the Panorama example very effectively.

However, Guido made some good points especially on the current governments use of the empty chair and press release.

  • 14.
  • At 09:29 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Mike Aubury wrote:

With the blatent (and admitted) bias at the BBC, as well as the numerous 'connections' between journalists, editors and labour polititians - is it any wonder that people feel that we're not being told the whole truth most of the time....

Good old Guido, who pulls no punches and holds the elected elite to task - well, as long as they are Labour or Lib Dem...

Political journalists need to be scrutinised and they need to be reflective on how they conduct themselves. However, saying that, they should take no lessons from characters such as "guido".

What guido doesn't explain to viewers in his film is that he is partisan and right wing. He scours the mainstream media and blogs for scraps of gossip with which he can then attack the government or the Labour party.

He knows what story he wants to write, and then looks for something/anything to stand it up.

Also, if we are talking journalistic standards, why is newsnight now indulging in anonymous guest reporters?

  • 17.
  • At 10:19 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Nick Thornsby wrote:

I understand your predicament to an extent and while you are not a Jeremy paxman or John Humphreys you definitely ask the tough questions when need be. However I do get really quite fed up with a lot of todays media- it is very, very negative and very very repetitive and sensationalist reporting really winds me up. It is probably worst in the press but gettin worse in broadcasting institutions like the beeb- just look at birdflu and previously SARS- the media jumped on these stories as if these were going to be the next black death- and in fact they have both proved to be simple scarmongering. Simarlarly a few months ago when there was the spate of murders down in the east coast- george alligiah was down there spending large amounts of the news covering the sotry when and it was so blown out of proportion. I was fortunate enough to listen to a speech by martin bell a couple of months ago and he spoke a lot of sense about his former profession- and particularly about his former employers. However I dont expect this situation to get any better and completely understand that you are at the will of your bosses- who want sensational stories because it gets more viewers- I just think it is very very sad!

  • 18.
  • At 10:27 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Basic J wrote:

Your comments are great. Whilst you come across as a pleasant guy Nick, I have always thought you would be more effective if you asked politicians some tough questions, and put them on the spot rather than happily regurgitating their spin. But, hey, it's a good life at the beeb isn't it? Easy money - keep your nose clean, don't ruffle any feathers - job for life. It's no wonder the turnout at elections has been falling and the mistrust of politicians grows - all we get fed by the mainstream broadcasters are the warm words and spin from the government.

I think you're missing Guido's point, if I may be so bold...

If you don't 'get the interview' it is the politician who loses the chance to put their case across, not you. You have nothing to lose by being denied 'access' by politicians of any party.

As Guido says, if Labour or the Conservatives refuse to give you access, tell us and move on. There's always plenty of news that's not considered worthy and if you have spare time because Gordon Brown, Tony Blair or David Cameron is cowardly then spend some time on those ignored issues.

  • 20.
  • At 10:53 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Bernard From Horsham wrote:

Sorry Nick, I think its a case of "methinks he doth protest too much" I think Guido really has a point. I think the empty chair idea is brilliant, and should be used at every available opportunity when the Govt of the day don't offer anyone to put their point of view. It would surely make them do so eventually.
Its just not good enough to read a statement. That's what you expect on programmes like Watchdog!

  • 21.
  • At 11:10 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Stewart Knight wrote:

Attempting to engage with him in a grown up way I told "Guido" the truth. Namely, that in order for specialist journalists (whether health or legal or political reporters) to know their subject inside out they have to build working relationships with those they report on.

Why do you, specifically, require a working relationship with politicians? Are you a journalist or not? Do you seriously suggest you must get all your information from politicians and therefore need them for your stories?

Hmmmm, maybe Yates should form a working relationship with Levy and Turner lest he doesn't gain any information, or is that not how the system works?

Regain what little credibility you once had by ignoring nasty, vindictive little men with an agenda like Ireland, and the various politicians who you seem to rely on for your work, and gain a reputation as a journalist by going out and working for the information.

Besides that your working relationship should be with me and the likes of me, the public.

  • 22.
  • At 11:23 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I thought Paul Staines' interview on Newsnight showed him up as a naive and foolish dilettante.

He did, however, claim that you were the source on the 'second email system' issue with regard to Ruth Turner's document detailing her concerns with Lord Levy.

Is this true? If so, how can you possibly justify such a move?

  • 23.
  • At 11:37 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Tom Saunders wrote:

Are you watching the instantaneous & ,largely, negative reaction on Guido's site at the minute...?

  • 24.
  • At 11:39 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Nigel Wetherington wrote:

Only journalists like John Pilger have the guts to speak out on the things that matter. He's worth more than the bunch of sycophantic journalists whom we see every day in every media outlet.

  • 25.
  • At 12:18 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • newcon wrote:

Guildo (Paul Stains) is a disingenuous self indulgent hypocrite.

  • 26.
  • At 12:53 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • shaun wrote:

what does nick think about the allegation made on newsnight by guido that you were the source for the now redundant claim concerning the second email system at number 10?
he has since retracted it via his own web blog but it does make you wonder

  • 27.
  • At 02:17 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • matt wrote:

Don't worry Nick, he was made to look a complete prat on Newsnight anyway. He's also a completely hypocritical Nu Conservative spin doctor who doesn't have the guts to show his face of TV like yourself in those snazzy 'emo' glasses of yours.

I have seen TV and newspaper reports about my special field - very obscure - which were simplified to such a degree as to be 100% wrong. Anyone acting on them would have been for it. I tend therefore to think that this might be true of reports about things that I have no personal special knowledge of. My question on politics is just that - when does oversimplification and the mainstream become just plain false?

  • 29.
  • At 09:23 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Hedley Lamarr wrote:

Interesting that Michael White lied on Newsnight last night about not knowing Prescott was 68. Search Comment is Free for a piece by him...

  • 30.
  • At 09:48 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • incandescent wrote:

Guilty as charged.

  • 31.
  • At 09:52 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Jake Long wrote:

I wish that you and the BBC would report a "ROUNDED" view of global warming rather than just repeating the mantra of the heads of the IPCC.

  • 32.
  • At 09:58 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Magnus wrote:

I decided to have a look at Guildo's blog. I honestly see very little of worth there. I wonder what newsnight were thinking.

I'm stuck trying to figure out what Guildo's blog's aim really is. Is it to be witty? To investigate media and politics? I think it fails miserably at both (unlike say, Private Eye). This leads me to assume that the goal is to allow the writer to boost his ego by pretending to (but failing) be alternative and a rebel, and little else.

  • 33.
  • At 09:59 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Terry wrote:

Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick.

I think I would agree with the idea that journalists need to pull their punches if it weren't for the fact that this has only happened under this Government to any great degree. I recall the time many years ago under the last Tory Government when pictures of David Mellor in his Chelsea kit (after allegations that he enjoyed certain social activity in said kit) appeared on television news above items of far, far greater importance. And I have to say, very reluctantly, that watching some early morning news programmes is ok for information on some lifestyle issues but useless for real news. I guess it just depends ... depends on how strong the Government is ... how strong a programme editor is .... and consequently, how much a journalist feels he or she can get away with, without feeling his or her livelihood is threatened. That's one reason why we need the so-called ex-civil service whistle-blowers. Without them betraying their confidentiality agreements, we wouldn't know a thing. We once had the Militant Tendancy as a pressure group; but please Nick, never join the Sycophantic Tendancy.

  • 34.
  • At 10:47 AM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • jim wrote:

Guido and others have exposed how disingenuous the Government spin machine is. The extent of it all is truly appalling.
I'm extremely glad he's there, even if he is ruffling the feathers of the cosy relationship between the mainstream media and the political set.
I think half of the problem is that rather than reporting the news, the political journalists are given air time to make there own comment on political events. Whilst the journalists have a unique take on events and often have interesting things to say, they are themselves reliant on good contacts and are liable to think beyond the story they're reporting on, to the detriment of disclosing what we all have a right to know.

Thanks for hosting the Charles Clarke speech - I've taken the liberty of linking to it. With appropriate credit.

The relationship between national media and national politics you describe in Guido's report is perfectly valid. But increasingly irrelevant. Roy Greenslade pointed out as long ago as 2002 (in an article for the BJR) that the slumps in political engagement, voting turnout, newspaper readership and TV news viewing are not coincidental.

Clarke's analysis of the agenda setting processes ten years ago is quite valid. But also increasingly irrelevant. While fears about losing control of the political agenda to bloggers such as Guido are overplayed, the certainty is that politicians are going to have engage with the public in a very different way to that of the past.

  • 36.
  • At 12:52 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

Although I agree with one of Guido's points - that Newsnight shouldn't feel the need to provide balance, when Ministers refuse to be cross examined on TV, I thought the guy actually made a complete prat of himself .

His arguments were pretty simplistic and he showed himself to be very clumsy when he refered to Lord Levy's trial, in the same breath as asserting that he was careful not to be prejudice!

He also showed that even anomynous bloggers need to build relationships when he asserted that it was you who'd given him the two emails tip - I presume you won't be sharing your insider knowledge so freely in future.

  • 37.
  • At 01:16 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

While I don't buy everything Guido says, he does have a point. You, Nick, and many others in the mainstream media are indeed too soft on politicians. You may ask difficult questions when they need asking, but the trouble is the politicians don't usually answer them. The bit where you need to be tougher is what you do next: insist on an answer, or make it really clear to your viewers the conclusions they can draw from the politician's failure to answer.

Is that being partisan? Perhaps. But the politicians bring it entirely on themselves if they choose not to answer the difficult questions.

  • 38.
  • At 02:28 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Carl Eve wrote:

It still stuns me how little many of the BBC viewers understand of how exactly journalism works, or on occasion doesn't work.

I'm less surprised how little Paul Staines aka Guido understands it. Clearly the only reason he got the Newsnight slot was the researchers on the programme have recently read a load of fawning rubbish in the right-wing broadsheets about the equally right-wing blogger who fools no-one but his sycophants that he is some kind of hero for the honest masses. If the researchers and subsequent assistant producers, producers and editors had any sense about them, rather than a skewed view of one miles around Whitehall and one-and-a-half miles around White City, then perhaps they'd have picked a more insightful and less obviously partisan blogger.
Thank God Jeremy saw through him and noted he was "living in a pathetic conspiracy world".
Like I said, next time try and get someone who is into real political blogging, not ego-blogging.

  • 39.
  • At 02:50 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Michael Pickles, UK wrote:

Nick Robinson cannot defend the indefensible. He sits behind his ridiculous thick rimmed glasses cosying up to the politician he has before him. The BBC is as bad as Sky for having sycophantic reporting. At the moment Jon Snow on Channel 4 is about the only interviewer who is not afraid to ask the difficult questions and not letting up until he has an answer. Paxman used to be the best interviewer, but he's gone downhill fast and he has become quite spineless. It seems to be that ever since the Gilligan sacking the rest of the BBC and Sky reporters have chickened out and do not want to put their necks on the line in case their puppet bosses hinder their carreers. This is doing them and the watching public a great disservice. If these reporters can no longer stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and good riddance to them.

  • 40.
  • At 03:10 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • johntalbot wrote:

Sorry nick cant agree with you about Charles Clarke, as I happen to live in Norwich and have seen him wandering /loafing around looking like an also ran.If he thinks that hes getting down with the people he is sadly mistaken.By the way Norwich is one of those councils who are looking for a greater degree of independance.My view is that the principals of democracy have been lost in the wider context over a number of decades and it is becoming increasingly like that. I think there is a shared view that govt is far too centralised under Blair as it was under Thatcher, true things got done or rather steamrollered through parliament most of which Bills are completely over the heads of voters or citizens.But Clarke does not have the answers or solutions he represents part of the problem.The core vote of potential labour voters have been alienated and new labour is not the answer for most of those people.Empty chairing is synonmous empty democracy.

  • 41.
  • At 04:13 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • gwenhwyfaer wrote:

Nick Robinson cannot defend the indefensible. He sits behind his ridiculous thick rimmed glasses

Thanks, Mr Pickles, that's a pretty good demonstration of "indefensible" right there.

Funny thing - occurrences like that make me suspect that the criticism being levelled at journalists is little more than "they have manners". Oddly enough, many of the same people can be heard whining incessantly about the illusory "Political Correctness gone too far", and for much the same reasons.

Sheesh, learn some social skills already!

  • 42.
  • At 05:48 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • Len Burch wrote:

Can those blaming Nick Robinson et al., for not openly antagonising their sources, really run their own lives without reliance on others, without fear of losing support and making adversaries, and without concern for spilling the beans over what are such daily shenanigans - including the antics of one's employer and other sponsoring agencies?

If those critics are so committed to openness, that they are without need to constantly keep their mouths shut, in others interests, let alone their own, then those folk will be totally supported by financially independent means, and will be enjoying a fully sovereign and autonomous existence.

They will, most certainly, be unemployed and yet dependent on no one.

If however those respondents are much like ourselves, then I cannot see how they can possibly live their own lives in the way they so wish that others would. How have they escaped the scrap heap, if not the dung heap?

Those folk are though, raising important, and wider issues, about how society is run, and the predicament we all face (including politicians) in whether to be unpopular and then unsupported, by saying what needs saying and doing, rather than being popular and successful in telling folk what they want to hear.

Such major issues with wider implications, need considering far more fundamentally, than as mere criticisms of individuals or even of a whole profession.

How far can anyone be expected to ignore the consequences of what he or she does; and even to ignore the affects that that will have on their options and ability to do the same on future occasions?

What those critics are identifying and complaining about is a feature of society itself. And in saying that, I am not implying therefore, that social “reality” is something that we must accept and follow, rather than (collectively) change. But entailed therein, is the recognition that you will not prevent or stop people from following what are the rules of the jungle, without either getting them out of the jungle or changing the rules.

People’s behaviour is a response to their circumstances – to what confronts them. Before anyone is going to (rationally) behave differently, there has to be changes in what their behaviour is a response to, involving real changes to the social structure, and in this case, particularly in respect of the highly disproportionate distribution of those exclusive (and so monopolistic and exploitative) rights known as “ownership” and which produce those same extensive forms of sponsorship, which riddle society from top to bottom and constitute its controlling features –also from top to bottom – in those “free” but unfair, exchange conditions where all, including the rates of exchange, depend on each party’s differential bargaining power – on the extent of their wealth - ownership.

I am now 80, but in my early 20s, I made some rather quick advances, and became widely regarded (by those who matter) as having potential prospects - since my efforts were (you could say inevitably) tied up with those other property interests. It was a veritable formula for success, given the wealth and power of such collateral backing in interests and sponsorship

Without going into the (interesting for me) details, I confronted the alternatives of putting certain principles before those of my sponsors and myself, or simply ignoring the problem, worrying about something else, or about nothing at all. (The issues had nothing to do with legality or criminality – merely (sic?) matters of equity.)

The middle choice of compromising between principles and self-interest, was not possible, but never occurred to me anyway. It would only have led to my slower rather than faster (and more extendedly painful) finale and curtains to any such uniquely extensive and promising prospects.

Of course I put principles first - or I would not be telling you this story – and others with consciences and concern for principles will have faced similar, if lesser, dilemmas as continuing sagas throughout life.

The point is however, that while I can swank here about that significant instance of my youthful morality, I did find, that when I was reduced to working for those, who otherwise could well have been working for me, that I did many times, and even more so in that position, have to jettison principles and to accommodate myself to what was both in their and my own interests – given that I was then in a greater state of need and dependency.

Indeed it is an irony, that had I put my own interests first, in that first important encounter, then I might not have needed to face (and give in to) the same problem so frequently in future life. As a less dependant person and with more control over things, I would have been in a better position to have avoided such capitulating situations.

For strange as it may seem, following your principles, leads you into a position where it is very difficult to have any principles at all.

That may be why those who start off their lives as the world’s greatest moral crusaders finish up as the world’s worst scoundrels.

. . . . whatever am I saying?

. . . . and where would such an admission ever be likely to get me – or anyone else?

Excellent comment by Len Burch:

Mature and sensible.

Yep, life is complex.

I think my vote goes to Guido!

He points out how you don't need a relationship with your political contacts -and it is true. Your job is to tell the people, through the BBC, what the politicians are up to. The politicians know who you are, so they are the ones who need a relationship with you, not the other way around.
You are on the TV every day (practically), they are the ones who need your services - without them, they become that MP, whatsit from up north. People don't look at political news for political celebs - they just want the unadulterated news.

You admit to being soft on your politicians because you need the story, but you actually sound like a bad salesman who discounts because he doesn't have the nerve to push for the best price - just in case he loses the sale.

I don't expect you to understand this analogy, but from my armchair, I can see I am wasting my time watching the BBC for political news.

  • 45.
  • At 11:32 PM on 29 Mar 2007,
  • David Sands wrote:

Nick lovey, the old adage is indeed true: that journalists'trade is trash. You and Guido are as bad as each other. Journalism in general will continue its slide down the calibre of professions, just as sure as its salaries fall ever lower in comparison with those of others, as long as people like you and Guido keep on eating the grubs that are fed you in lieu of decent remuneration.

I am really disappointed with Nick Robinson's response to this. The BBC serves me, not the Government, he should remember that. I want him and his ilk to be aggressive in the way they deal with Government and, where they know or suspect there is sleaze, I want the BBC - who I help to pay for - to be the first to report it, not to wait until they can no longer get away with ignoring it.

Upsetting a politician will not stop them coming back with information, they need Nick Robinson far more than he needs them. He should remember that.

Care to comment on the article on the sports section of the BBC website in which Max Clifford gives advice to Steve McClaren about how he should have handled the media.

" I wanted to arrange for Steve to have dinner with the sports editors on all the national newspapers and I would have fed journalists little tit-bits of information all the time. I would have said 'this is for you, this is for you'.

That would have enabled us to build up some close relationships. ......

The secret is to develop relationships, then you can influence things far more than by simply blocking the press, which is what has happened. "

Seems pretty clear cut that this is how PR agents play you journalists. What argument can there be when Max Clifford has made millions doing just that?

  • 48.
  • At 08:58 AM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • John O'Donnell wrote:

Its a pretty depressing world when all you have as news sources are "journalists" who are afraid of upsetting the politicians and bloggers with their own agenda and no requirement for accuracy.

As an example of the state we are in the
fuss over Iran's nuclear ambitions has been going on for months. The essence of the story is that Israel has atom bombs so Iran wants parity. I have never seen anyone ask why it is OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not Iran.

Nick, Why not post a web version of your Charles Clarke speech? Word docs are sooo 1990s! and this is a blog after all ;) Cheers, Jon Grant

  • 50.
  • At 07:31 PM on 21 Apr 2007,
  • John wrote:

I think Guido is onto something. The fact that Nick is not able to deal with this without getting irritated says a lot.

The deeper problem of journalism is what it is really for. GF is clearly attempting to stimulate some kind of debate on not just what is going on, but what good is being done and thus offering critique. Even if mainstream apologists like Angry Nick claim they are revealing stuff, they do so simply because it is their job - there is no inherent attempt to critique, and probe whether this is good or worthwhile. They will swing in when others propose critiques, but not initiate them.

Note that having denied being craven, Nick writes a PS saying a speech of Charles Clarke is more interesting than a controversy over his own independence. You couldn't make it up.

  • 51.
  • At 08:56 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Christne Constable wrote:

Nick ...I'm sorry but I struggle to take BBC political coverage seriously. To me the discussions often hinge on "rumours" or your take on something. I don't think elected policians or even unelected politicians get anywhere near their fair share of coverage.

The BBC is most certainly partisan in that it cannot see past the main three parties, and consequently leaves out alot of the public and alot of the other political views that strain to be heard.

I don't feel BBC political coverage is challenging in the least and is very accepting of the bizarre set of circumstances the UK currently finds itself in.

I haven't heard the BBC point out that with all the talk in the Queen's speech about Britain - that the majority of Bills making their way to the statute book affect only England, in fact I hardly ever hear the word England muttered by the BBC, and when it is it is in a whisper - what's wrong with the Beeb, England is 85% of the UK, and where all the real politics is happening, but rarely ever a word about us. YOu don't have the same problem with Scotland, which is rammed down our throats 24/7. It would be refreshing to hear the word England for a change if that isn't too much to ask. By the way I am English!

The Beeb rarely talks about the differential treatment of the English within the Union, yet in everything from top up fees, access to life saving drugs, care for the elderly, foundation hospitals and even school meals we have a yawning gap in state provision here in England the Beeb rarely explores the reasons for this, one wonders why? Too politcially explosive? What's happened to the investigative journalism?

The EU Treaty aka EU Constitution is not seriously explored and I haven't heard the Beeb go into any serious analysis as to why Gistard D'estang believes it is the di facto Constitution whilst Brown denies that it is.

The West Lothian Question is something the Beeb reluctantly covers and often in the most basic and childlike of ways as if the public are either too bored or too stupid to understand when they are being sold down the river.

I only wish the Beeb did land some big punches. The only person who seems to be at least making some running is Andrew Neil and my goodness we have to rely on a Scot to stick up for England.

I am afraid I (along with thousands of others) have largely given up on the Beeb as ever being able to ask hard questions and get decent answers from evasive policians. A mouth piece of the government machine if evber I saw one.

One of the reasons we have started to migrate to 18 Doughty Street, at least there you can have some interesting and stimulating political debates.

I realise politics has to have an aspect of show business to keep interest, but if you turn it into a side show and YOU do all the interpreting for the public you aren't letting people think for themselves...for a change.

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