“To the extent that a media system accepts that its ‘professional’ role is to report a news agenda set by officialdom, it must largely renounce the task of challenging that agenda. If the government, for example, rejects as hopelessly flawed a report on civilian casualties in Iraq – if it decides to ‘move on’, say, from the November 2004 Lancet report – who are professional news journalists to disagree?
“For a news journalist to continue promoting the credibility of the officially rejected report – or the rejected role of oil in motivating foreign policy, or the rejected possibility of Tony Blair’s prosecution for war crimes – is to challenge the accepted right of officialdom to set the agenda for the professional press. It is in fact an attempt to set a competing agenda. This is to lay oneself open to attack as a ‘biased’, ‘committed’ and ‘crusading’ journalist – something professional news reporters are not supposed to be.”
Medialens – whose first book, Guardians of Power, is released in December – regularly tackles the so-called “liberal” press and its presumptions of openness and fairness. Western journalistic exceptionalism has never had a greater foe.