THE STATE OF THE MEDIA NATION

I've been listening to the ongoing spat between Derek Bateman, blogger and erstwhile BBC journo, and many of his mainstream print colleagues.
Derek wrote a blog detailing the list of stories prepared by the Labour party to be published by newspapers during the holiday period when staff levels were at their lowest. He pointed out that these were put out on the days pre-determined by the party, and without any serious interrogation by the journalist whose name appeared on the byline. And often led the front pages.
The reaction of his print brethren varied from - it's not just the Labour Party, all the parties are at it, to some social media postings decrying Bateman's own professional credentials.
As someone who's worked for many years both in print and broadcasting media, I'd make a few observations.
1. It is self evidently unhealthy if the relationship between political parties and their media colleagues becomes too cosy. Everyone needs contacts. And everyone needs to maintain enough independence of mind to treat anything coming undiluted from these contacts with sufficient scepticism and to utilise it, with balance and fairness.
2. I suspect all this is symptomatic of an industry which is increasingly operating with ever scarcer human resources.
Many inexperienced journalists will write up press releases unquestioningly not because they are corrupt, but because there is not time to do much else given the pressures they are under to produce several stories per day. But, sadly, some of their more experienced colleagues will use pre-packaged stories because it makes life easier when they are juggling several editorial demands at once.
3. This is not just about political parties. All manner of pubic organisations use lobbying and spin doctoring techniques and cultivate what they hope will be sufficiently tame media contacts.
4. There is no longer the luxury for most media operators of spending days or weeks uncovering investigative material and checking it, especially material that others, including politicians, are anxious to hide from view. There is also an increasing dearth of specialists; when I worked for The Scotsman for instance, there was a full time journalist in Brussells and a posse in London.
Equally, on all the papers where I worked, press releases were - at best - something which might implant a thought to take a longer look, or, more normally, bin fodder. A press release, by definition, is a sales document. Buyers beware.
Having said which, there are still many fine journalists creating their own original material, or sufficiently savvy and honest to take proffered "lines" and check them out thoroughly before writing them up.
It's interesting that a current hot story is about the gender based inequality of the BBC pay structures. As one of the protagonists pointed out this morning there is no such disparity at senior management levels where salaries require to be published.
It is where there is a lack of transparency that any employer is able to tilt the scales and then deny any impropriety. Via a press release.