What Birt didn’t see

My response to John Birt’s attack on political journalism was printed in Monday’s Guardian.

What Birt didn’t see

Monday August 29, 2005
The Guardian

John Birt claims the media are too superficial in their political reporting (Birt attacks ‘easy cruelty’ of tabloid Britain, August 27), but fails to mention the root cause – an intensely secretive and controlling government.

Until the Freedom of Information Act came into force on January 1 2005, reporters – and the public – had few legal means of finding out what government was up to with our money. Is it any wonder that journalists became “obsessed not with policy, but with personality”?

One of the most frequently cited FOIA exemptions is section 35, “formulation of government policy”. Quite how journalists are supposed to report on policy when the government refuses to tell us anything about it (beyond cheap propaganda) Birt does not explain.

Journalism of depth and analysis, insight and substance requires one crucial ingredient: information. Until government starts providing some, tabloid journalism is what it deserves.

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