On the day I read this superb book, the president of the United States tweeted a short video of himself as a wrestler, body-slamming someone with the CNN logo for a head. It was a ‘joke’ video but it epitomised his serious and relentless strategy of attacking critical journalism. The USA used to be a beacon for press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment, but now it is just another gruesome battlefield in the global war on truth.
John Lloyd once wrote a book blaming overmighty British newspapers for damaging democracy by bullying politicians. The Power and the Story shows how things have dramatically changed around the world. Despite the brief opening for liberalism after the Cold War and the promise of digital democracy, journalism finds itself ever more constrained by politicians and their accomplices. In a magisterial sweep Lloyd demonstrates how other pressures, such as violence, secrecy, corruption and commercialisation, are threatening the public purpose of journalism.
Lloyd is a realist but he upholds the ideals of mid-20th-century journalism at its best. It may have emerged in a particular historical milieu but it remains a valuable inheritance. The core idea is ‘the free pursuit and publication of facts ... in a society ready to host