Should you read any commentary today then the piece in the Times by Guido on the Downing Street email scandal and the complicity of the Lobby in perpetuating this sort of thing is well worth a look. There will no doubt be some who think I'm linking to it because he's a mate, and yes, there is an element of that I guess, but it's the argument about the relationship the Lobby has with those it reports on that is key. The conclusion? The Lobby system of the Fourth Estate is rotten at the core.
That is of course a slightly generalised point, there are exceptions where some in political reporting, as even Guido points out, are not all that bad. Fraser Nelson, Peter Obourne, Martin Bright amongst them have taken a hit on their access in order to report the truth. Too many of the others though just seem to sit and lap up whatever they get told, and when this is pointed out to them, the reaction is a sneering attitude of "look at the silly bloggers in their bedroom, they just don't understand the important work we do".
This reality was proved to me only recently when I met a Whitehall editor of one of the nationals who I shall not name for fear of being sued due to possibly inaccurate recall. He told me that he was a fan and started to ask me what the next big scoop was and what I had. On reflection, I think he was probably probing to see if I knew about Paul's big email smear scoop, however, it was when I told him I knew bugger all that the conversation became interesting.
He asked me how I did it. H ow I managed to get original stories that his paper and other papers and broadcasters then picked up on ran with - a mainstream media hit as it were. When I told him that I read through the information published by Parliament daily each morning; scanned the departmental websites for freedom of information request responses; sent sporadic FoI's into departments asking questions that might elicit interesting answers and wrote my own little programmes that could pattern match other available information online, he was taken aback.
Here was I, some little nobody, actually doing some real work, in my own time for gratis. I was not having cosy little lunches with politicians, I was not connected into the political world with hundreds of sources here and there. I was just using my nose to smell out the shit, and then writing about it. He gave me his card, I threw it away when I left to catch my train.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying they're all bad. There are some that are. There are some that have been tipped off by me about a post which has then turned into something big and I've got bugger all credit for. There are others though, and they know who they are, who have not done that and have been happy to help me out when I've had something where the pieces fit but standing it up won't quite work, they are the good ones and as I say, they know who they are.
The point I guess I'm driving at it, is that Guido is right. The vast majority of political correspondents and reporters are failing us because they don't really report anymore, they just repeat. Whether its a smear here or there, or just a press release that has been taken at face value without a critical eye added. Deadlines, copy, and filling column inches take precedent over seeking out the truth. It's truly a shite state of affairs to be in.