Recording our cock-ups as well as our triumps

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to edit Press Gazette for the past four years, not least for the unparalleled insight such a job gives into the workings of the British media.

The very nature of an independent magazine like ours means that we are privy to secrets that don’t always make it onto our pages, but which help us to construct our stories with authority.  We protect our sources and keep confidences, which is why even the most senior journalists, editors and executives trust us to give an even-handed viewpoint.

If sides are to be taken, ours is on that of the working journalist, the reporter, feature writer, photographer, broadcaster going about the daily business of turning over stones that need to be turned over and shedding light into dark corners.

Where we can we support them although we reserve the right to comment and occasionally criticise. 

The past month of high-profile revelations has given us plenty of opportunity for that.  The spectacle of Her Majesty’s Press in full high-minded and furious feeding frenzy is an alarming and often distasteful one but a meek, silent and shackled press would be very much worse.

Still, it is worth considering how many of our esteemed editors would be able to withstand the tidal wave of mindless wrath that has descended upon the heads of several public figures during the past few weeks.

Journalists in general and editors in particular have remarkably thin skins where it comes to criticism of their own activities, opinions, allegiances and stances.  Burning phone-lines to the editor of Press Gazette’s desk on a Thursday morning bear witness to that. Over the years the magazine’s archives have been enriched by angry letters and emails rashly despatched in the heat of the moment and carefully filed in the Reference Only section.

An accusation often hurled at this editor’s head by the aggrieved is that they did not expect to read criticism of their activities in the journalists’ magazine.

Why ever not?  If a robust and healthy press cannot be criticised in an independent publication like ours, then where can it be criticised. If Press Gazette is not to be allowed to have opinions about the activities of the press, then what’s the point? And where’s the fun in it?

Imagine the reaction of say, a national newspaper editor, if they were to be telephoned by a captain of industry with the announcement that they were withdrawing advertising because of some implied criticism or other.

I hope that new editor Ian Reeves will continue to record both the triumphs and the cock-ups alike.  It’s a wonderful job getting up-close and personal with such a varied, interesting and passionate media.

At their warts-and-all worse they are pretty bloody awful.  But at their best they are still the most exciting, clever, funny, wonderful people in the world.

Philippa Kennedy

Editor, Press Gazette 1998-2002

Philippa Kennedy

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