i Editor's Letter: Hacks and politicians


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The Independent Online


The maligned Lord Mandelson, at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, hit the nail on the head on the thorny issue of relationships between hacks and politicians. "You can be friendly with journalists, but you can never be their friends," he said, with such beguiling bluntness you could for a moment believe neither Tory nor Labour politicians had ever been "friends" with a journalist – and minutes before blithely telling his Lordship about attending Elisabeth Murdoch's 40th birthday party.

He was adapting the old adage that journalists don't have friends, only contacts. Other quotes resonated, no matter how cynical: "There are two categories of hacks, subjective and objective," and: "The standard of manners and courtesy has dropped, there is a lack of respect for achievement and status."

I agree. One horrible consequence of our lingering class system is this debilitating "culture of envy". There is a difference between bankers making obscene money through legalised gambling (see JP Morgan story), and those who do so by creating a business (Zuckerberg) or entertaining millions through art (Robin Gibb, RIP) or sport (Drogba).

As for his first point. I may be in a minority among journalists. I feel, whatever the field, we should not get too close to our subjects. I don't mean specifically politicians and hacks, but hacks and whoever: arts, business, travel, showbiz, sports writers too. Looking back, in a past life I was guilty of this once.

I also don't particularly believe that newspapers and other media outlets should tell readers how to vote, but instead present stories and opinions from both sides of social and political divides, and let you, the reader, decide. Like I said, I am in a minority among hacks. Tant pis!