If you haven’t had chance to see the Storyville documentary about the New York Times on BBC4, I’d recommend it.
Journalists are a unique bunch. I’ve worked with them all my adult life. I’ve been burned: the first time by the New York Times, in the margins of the Clinton impeachment hearings.
I’ve dealt with great journalists, awful journalists, arrogant journalists, dedicated journalists. I’ve met lobby correspondents with an overt political agenda, cynics who give the profession a bad name.
I’ve learned from the hugely knowledgable specialist correspondents for the trades, experts in their field’s history and nuances.
I’ve worked for a former editor, whose lack of patience with flabby copy is a huge influence on the way I write.
Anyone who deals with the press gets to know the elation of seeing a pitched story splashed across the pages or leading the TV bulletin. You get to know the frustration of a call from the cynics, the individuals whose scepticism has become a deeply negative, arrogant disregard for what’s factworthy or newsworthy. And you get to enjoy the relationship with the vast majority of journalists: intelligent, decent, gloriously ascerbic, criminally underpaid, and unfairly tarnished by the antics we’re hearing about in the Leveson hearings.
The point is that we need proper journalists and we need serious newspapers. Twitter, the Huffington Post, the blogosphere, are not journalism. We’ve all seen hatchet-jobs which purport to be investigative journalism and are just ego-massaging from hacks whose job title is all they have in common with Bernstein and Woodward. But proper investigative reporting, robust commentary, sharp writing which seeks to explain and elucidate not insult and satirise, is both a pleasure and a vital core to a functioning democracy. My concern in Wales is not principally whether the Western Mail survives as a daily or the independence of the broadcasters is defended, if it exists: it’s the wider fundamental concern of how serious reporting and real journalism can stay and grow in the fragmenting chaos of the modern media. It’s a national and a global issue. But it’s why we need the New York Times.