Canon defends press after attack from archbishop

By Dominic Ponsford

The vicar of Fleet Street, Canon David Meara, has weighed in on the
side of journalists following a speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury
attacking the press.

Just hours after Canon Meara officiated at the service in St Bride’s
Church, Fleet Street, last week to commemorate Reuters moving to Canary
Wharf (see picture below), his boss Rowan Williams was criticising the
press in a speech at Lambeth Palace.

Williams
spoke of “lethally damaging” practices among journalists and an
“embarrassingly low level of trust in the profession”.

He
said: “High levels of adversarial and suspicious probing send the clear
message that any kind of concealment is guilty until proved innocent.”

And
he concluded: “A flourishing, morally credible media is a vital
component in the maintenance of genuinely public talk, argument about
common good.

“Such talk is not in rich supply just now, and it is only fair to ask what share of responsibility the media has for this.”

Meara
told Press Gazette: “I agreed with much of what he said, but I think in
a way he was choosing the wrong targets to attack. He made a rather
nice analogy between good journalism and a good conversation.

“It seems to me that on that score the press does quite well – he seemed to lump together journalism as a whole.

“In
terms of having a conversation I think that local and regional
newspapers are very good at having that ongoing relationship with
readers. And even the nationals are getting better: Mary Ann Sieghart
from The Times was telling me she has an email address at the end of
her stories and she gets lots of feedback and does have an ongoing
email conversation with her readers.

“And broadcasters are also getting quite sophisticated at maintaining some sort of interactive relationship with their viewers.

“When
I was first appointed at St Bride’s people said things like ‘if you sup
with the devil use a long spoon, these are dangerous people’. But the
journalists I’ve dealt with have been, without exception, delightful
people.”

Canon Meara also spoke up in support of the press by writing a piece in this week’s News of the World.

He
wrote: “There is sensuality about the printed word, about the feel of a
newspaper – the familiar masthead, the reassuring sequence of pages.
Does that make me feel like a complete saddo? If so, I’m proud to be
sad because I love newspapers and I’m proud of our newspaper industry.”

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