Sunday, 9 October 2011

To The Barricades...........

If you are a hammer every problem looks like a nail, even if it has a slot cut across the head or the head is six sided. If you are the Director of the Society of Editors representing 450 of the main national, regional and local newspapers and magazines the answer to every problem is a stout defence of the freedom of the press. And so it was with the annual Olsen Lecture last Thursday at St Brides, given this year by Bob Satchwell the Director of the Society of Editors who talked on the topic ' An Unholy Alliance of Press, Police and Politicians' The Olsen Lecture started 10 years ago in memory of Tom Olsen a former Sunday Telegraph journalist. It has had many notable speakers over the years including David Attenborough, P D James, Lord McGregor, Matthew Parris and Andrew Marr. Bob Satchwell himself has had a long and successful career in journalism and indeed was at one point Assistant Editor of the late lamented News of The World. He took as his start point July 4 2011 the day that Milly Dowler's phone hacking was made public-4 days before the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was expected to allow Rupert Murdoch to proceed with his bid for the shares in BSkyB he didn't already own. Parliament raged but Hackgate as it became known was not, he observed, just about journalists' ethics and behaviour, the failures of earlier police inquiries into Murdoch were exposed. As we saw and read the political classes who have been battered and severely bruised by investigative media inquiries and reporting took the opportunity to kick back. Bob went on to claim that now we have too may inquiries : the media he claimed was now the most inquired into public institution in history--we now have inquiries into inquiries.
The worry in the media now, Bob said, is that the whole hacking debacle and its ramifications has not only tarnished the press but threatens to create regulations or restrictions which will hamper a truly free press. The counter attack was to hope that the inquiries also examine the collective guilt of politicians who now say they were over-influenced by one man. (some hope!). Unsurprisingly he closed by emphasising that the Society of Editors is determined to fulfil its role as defender of the media at every level. Well he would wouldn't he.
This evening was sponsored by Kaizo PR who kindly provided endless wine and wonderful canapes at the Lutyens restaurant adjoining the church, where there was complete freedom of expression.

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