Pre-Leveson Blair: “The press is a feral pack”

Tony Blair came to the Reuters HQ in London’s Canary Wharf today [June 13, 2007] to vent his spleen on the media and finally tell it how it is. His speech, billed as being about public life and leadership in the media age, turned out to be a 35 minute blood letting as he savaged the modern 24 hour news media as a ‘feral beast’ which just wants to tear people in public life apart.

He did pause to admit some responsibility, acknowledging that New Labour had assiduously courted the media and spent rather too much time worrying about what the papers said.

But the overall theme of his presentation was one of damnation. The press was ruining people’s lives, trampling over their personal affairs and making many Front page of the Independent newspaperthink twice about the wisdom of engaging in public life.

As a Reuters journalist I hesitate to wade in with an opinion. In a previous incarnation at Associated Newspapers, home of the Daily Mail, I would not have been so reluctant. Indeed, it would have been expected.

Today’s Independent newspaper, a title named by Blair as a particular example of how views and comment now masquerade as news, has – predictably – hit back, with a front page opinion piece about the speech (pictured).

This article by me first appeared in a blog on Reuters.com in 2007. It would take another 5 years and two changes of Prime Minister before Tony Blair’s feral beast met its Waterloo with the revelations of phone hacking and the Leveson Enquiry.

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