Former BBC journalist Nicholas Jones highlights a damaging legacy of the Blair years (something equally relevant in Australia and the US):
So great is the competition for exclusive stories that correspondents have become the eager beneficiaries of the government’s largesse in trailing decisions which should be announced first to parliament. Downing Street’s constant push to influence the news agenda for political advantage has resulted in many more unsourced stories quoting unnamed insiders.
No wonder political reporting is treated with such cynicism when there is a generation of political journalists who have acquired the freedom to embellish quotations and use them to help manufacture their own exclusive story lines.
The unsourced “exclusive” blights many papers across the world, written by journalists with an unhealthy love of “insider” information (the former New York Times reporter Judy Miller knows a few things about this.) Editors need to constantly ask themselves why officials demand anonymity and journalists need to be more sceptical towards sources desperate to reveal sensitive information, especially in times of war. Government, the military and officialdom lie, though too few journalists seem to take this position as a given (happily spreading false propaganda as news.) How many so-called reporters blindly accepted Western spin before the war in Iraq?