Letter from Simon Kelner

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The Independent Online

It was when I heard a man who has spent a large part of his life trying to influence the national press say that the influence of the national press is grossly exaggerated that I realised the world is going a little bit barmy. On Newsnight the other night, Alastair Campbell (for it is he) was his usual engaging and forthright self in discussing the phone hacking scandal, but he couldn't seriously expect us to believe his contention that too much obeisance is paid by politicians to newspapers. After all, he was the man who, when the "dodgy dossier" on Saddam's weapons was published, was preoccupied with what the headline in that night's Evening Standard would be.

I have had my run-ins with Campbell in the past, largely over Iraq, and I have a framed note from him in my lavatory in which he asks me politely "to dilute my bile with water". But I've always secretly admired him, and his brand of man-of-the-people articulacy, his experience at the top level of government, and, no doubt, his availability make him a cinch for the producers of our rolling news programmes. So we've seen and heard a lot of Alastair recently. In fact, we've seen a lot of everyone recently. Simon Greenberg, News International's executive with special responsibility for defending the indefensible, has been a fixture on the airwaves. Editors, ex-editors, journalism professors, former News of the World staffers, politicians, ex-politicians – they've all been eaten up by the voracious appetite of 24-hour news.

I know it's the story du jour, and there are demanding schedules to fill, but the result, I'm afraid, is a lot of heat and very little light. How many times can you hear that it's a disgrace, Rebekah must go etc, etc? Yesterday, I had five different requests from various media outlets to add my opinion to the thousands already proffered. I declined, on the basis that the last thing I want to happen is to turn on the radio and hear myself talking! By the way, I think it's a scandal. More breaking news tomorrow!

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