Right of Reply: Charles Leadbeater

The think-tank Demos responds to our recent coverage of its controversi al ideas
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for a think-tank, press coverage is a double-edged sword. Think- tanks need headlines. But, on the other hand, a journalist filing a story needs to make a story interesting. Often this means turning a speculative half-sentence in a 40,000-word report into a lurid proposal - whether it's the suggestion of 10-year marriages, the right of children to veto divorces or a supposed justification for journalists to stalk.

The coverage in The Independent of our report on the family illustrates these points nicely. It was honest and fair by the standards of most press coverage but inevitably most of it consisted of a few colourful comments taken out of context, while the more fundamental points, about how little we as a society value the work done by families, largely got lost.

It's interesting to compare the media coverage with our real impact. In Demos's case, 90 per cent of the most important work has been done away from the glare of the media. Often we have found that the little- noticed reports have turned out to be most useful to practitioners.

The media also likes to use labels. Today many journalists like to describe Demos as a new Labour think-tank, yet most senior Labour figures have seen us as dangerously radical and heretical. Demos has at one time or another upset almost every part of the modern establishment: from right- wing tabloids to university feminists.

We don't complain about how the media treats us, although we have been vilified. It is far better to think imaginatively, than it is to fall into what are still too often the besetting sins of British public life, that combination of smug complacency and corrosive cynicism that sees it always as cleverer to be against things than to undertake the harder job of thinking how things could be different.