'Instant news' is harming relations, says Blunkett

Journalists and politicians currently have a “high-octane relationship”, Home Secretary David Blunkett said this week.

Speaking at the London Press Club Awards, Blunkett blamed the era of instant rolling news for many of their misunderstandings.

He told the audience he had made a speech in New York at midnight UK time, and by 7am “I was being denounced on the Today programme”. He claimed his words about giving “moral equivalence” to reports from behind Iraqi lines were taken out of context from a speech correctly reported by PA, and had not been directed at those reporting from Baghdad. Other media had chosen to interpret his speech to mean journalists were “stooges”, he said.

“We live in an era where we have to make instant judgement calls,” Blunkett said. “Tight deadlines for you and for us. If we say ‘can you give us half a day to respond to the devastating analysis you’ve just produced?’, you would say ‘you’ve missed the deadline’.”

He said he wanted time for politicians to get the necessary information before their remarks were subjected to “devastating analysis”.

Blunkett thought the relationship between the Government and journalists had reached a watershed and it was at a critical point between the media and politicians generally.

He pleaded with journalists to work with politicians to re-engage the public’s interest in politics. Referring to some of the huge issues that had confronted the Government in recent weeks, such as the march of a million people against the Iraq war, he said translating such events into an awareness and an engagement in politics was a massive challenge for the media.

“Disengagement of people in all walks and areas of life from the structure of politics is very frightening,” he said. “The real challenge is to develop a more mature relationship between us – so we balance fact with analysis, and opinion doesn’t overwhelm us.”

David Blunkett and London Press Club chairman Professor Donald Trelford present the Scoop of the Year award to Brian MacArthur, centre, of The Times for the newspaper’s serialisation of Edwina Currie’s book that revealed her affair with John Major. Other winners were: Edgar Wallace Award for fine writing – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail parliamentary sketchwriter; Business Journalist of the Year – Patience Wheatcroft, City editor, The Times; Consumer Affairs Journalist of the Year – Tanith Carey, Daily Mirror; New Media Journalist of the Year – Derek Bishton, telegraph.co.uk; Broadcasting Journalist of the Year – Andrew Marr, BBC political editor. The awards are sponsored by British Gas.

By Jean Morgan

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