Talking to Guido
Plenty 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.