Huw Edwards, host of the BBC’s election night coverage, brands criticism of journalists “toxic”. What is truly toxic is the notion that journalists are immune from scrutiny. That they are above criticism. That they act with impunity. Edwards was referring to criticism by political parties and their supporters. So, pretty much anybody who is politically engaged enough to be able to ask awkward questions of journalists who cover politics. How convenient!
If this vaulting sense of entitlement seems familiar that could be because we have grown accustomed seeing it among British politicians. Particularly those of the Tory persuasion. Perhaps it is common to politicians the world over. But throw a bit of British exceptionalism into the mix and you have arrogance and presumption that fairly takes your breath away.
The journalists who scavenge the British political plain – and occasionally prey on the wounded or weakened in the political herd – are no better than their hosts. Indeed, they tend to come from similar backgrounds.
If politicians are accountable to voters then journalists are accountable to the public. They are no different from any other provider of goods and services. The ultimate arbiters of the quality of their product are the consumers of that product. Either journalists attend to the criticism levelled at them by readers and listeners, or those consumers will surely take their custom elsewhere. As they are perfectly entitled to do, no matter what Huw Edwards says.
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