In praise of the press: David Pratt

THE death of the Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin, ought to be a reminder that not all reporters ride roughshod over the people whose stories they cover and that journalism can be a force for good – says the Sunday Herald’s foreign editor.

In the paper’s Essay of the Week, David Pratt, writes: “Long before ‘Hackgate’, journalists were, in the eyes of much of the general public, generally regarded as being about as worthy as something you would scrape off the sole of your shoe. Personally, I’ve lost count of the times individuals have rolled their eyes and given me contemptuous looks on hearing that I was ‘one of those people’. What especially sticks in the craw is that rarely, if ever, do they bother to ask what, if anything, I specifically do as a reporter. Simply being a journalist is enough to warrant their disdain.”

Colvin died on Wednesday while covering the conflict in Syria. On Thursday, Pratt penned an obituary for the following day’s edition of The Herald, as the industry came together to pay lavish tribute to the slain journalist.

Adds Pratt today: “For our profession’s real critics, though, it was the phone-hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World that gave them the ammunition and opportunity they have been waiting for to put the boot into the industry. The truth is, that their job was made all the easier by what has been an abject failure by many within the ranks of the press itself to say unequivocally to its own readers: hang on a minute, don’t tar us all with the same brush.

“One can only guess at the reason why so many journalists themselves, as well as their overseers and managers of many news media organisations, have failed to get this message across. It’s almost as if the press has become conditioned to always defend its mistakes, rather than flagging up its successes and merits – of which there are many.”