Alan Higham

My thoughts on topical issues

In Defence of Journalists

In a moment, I am going to repeat an article written in 1982 of the same title.

The worst excesses  of journalists breaking the law as catalogued by Leveson shows that more needs to be done to hold wrong-doers to account.  No-one, though, has demonstrated that existing laws and regulations are inadequate. Why the existing laws were not used by the police would have been a more suitable use of Leveson’s time.

A free press is our best guarantee of a civilised society and protection from oppressive, bossy politicians and officials, whose  purpose seems to be to enrich themselves in power and money whilst annoying the rest of us.

Now, back to 1982 to show that nothing changes that much.

“A large part of my time seems to have been spent defending journalists: there is an eradicable suspicion of them in England, which I find hard to explain, except in terms of sexual guilt.

Everybody, or nearly everybody, in England has a dirty secret, usually sexual but sometimes referring to some other habit or indulgence. This passion for secrecy is glorified by the name of privacy and fiercely defended by a whole apparatus of ingenious arguments: mothers and wives will be upset; worst of all children will have their feelings hurt. In one memorable case, it was announced that somebody’s kids had cried on the way home from school.

Yet despite these frightful faux pas, I have always maintained that the practice of journalism – and especially gossip journalism – is a genial one, adding to the gaiety of the nation, on balance, rather than subtracting from it.

People should be able to laugh at themselves and their curious habits: if they can’t, it is their own fault. Wives are frequently miserable for no reason. Children’s tears are quickly dried.

Journalists in my experience are generally easy going, unpompous people whose chief concern is to unravel good stories from the tangled skein of everyday monotony and pass them on.”

Auberon Waugh Spectator Magazine 17 April 1982


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