This week, some journalists have come clean about the cozy relationship with the government under which they betrayed their "Fourth Estate" duties in return for "access" to ministers (and not being bullied by Campbell, McBride and Whelan). Alice Miles wrote, honourably if belatedly, in the Times;
If I had decided to become a journalist, I would have aspired to be Woodward or Bernstein. I see no pleasure in doing a job to less than the best of one's ability. Not only is a jellyfish journalist no use to his readers, there can no be little or no fun in being such a creature.
Yet for all that, journalism has been discredited in Britain as much as politics in the past decade. The damage was done by an insider, Alistair Campbell, who had the precise measure of his professional colleagues. It seems he knew precisely how weak, vain and ridiculous they were. And he taught his "spin doctor" colleagues and political "clients" that they could take bullying and deceiving the media further than they had ever previously imagined. No doubt he also taught them how lazy journalists would get through their day by cutting and pasting from well-crafted press releases. He knew all about cutting and pasting.
Some journalists and commentators now seem to realise they have been "had". Even Polly Toynbee, the shrillest of government shills, has fallen eerily silent. If he has succeeded in shaming our journalists into doing their duty, Guido Fawkes should go down in our history as perhaps England's greatest Irish hero since the Iron Duke. For the failure of journalists to do their duty has been just as damaging to our political culture in the last 10 years - and to faith in democracy itself - as the shameless spinning and smearing of the politicians and their thugs.
Yet, just as faint optimism dawns in my battered heart, here is the Telegraph in a minor but indicative example, lazily taking government propaganda and republishing it uncritically. Here is the government portraying itself as "caring" about the health and welfare of the middle classes by re-announcing an old initiative in classic New Labour manner. And here is a journalist falling for it, without perceptible application of critical thought.
Are there no battered old journos to take young colleagues who have never known better to one side? Are there none to explain to them the idea of finding an expert with a different view to present two sides to an argument? Or of asking questions of the ministers and their stooges?
We have a long road ahead if we are to fix our broken society. In such small things, every single day, each of us can make a contribution. Journalists, not least.