TWO days ago, on the occasion of The Guardian's 50'000th edition, I quoted here the famous phrase of that newspaper's greatest editor, C P Scott that “Opinion is free but facts are sacred”. By chance, on the same day, Mr Blair delivered a speech about relations between the media and politics in which he said, “Opinion and fact should be clearly divisible” and went on to make an extraordinary attack on what he called the “feral beast” that is today's press in which opinion and fact are routinely elided. That phrase was bad enough but he then singled out The Independent newspaper as “the metaphor for this genre of journalism” even though, he said, it had been founded as an antidote to the idea of journalism as views, not news. In fact, as the newspaper itself pointed out yesterday, and as its name implies,The Independent was founded “as an antidote to proprietorial influence and narrow political allegiance.” Is it not remarkable that, in a speech demolishing the standards of British journalism under pressure from the 24-hour news cycle, Mr Blair should pick on a single newspaper and ignore those of, shall we say, Mr Rupert Murdoch's stable? Has he not noticed how The Times has changed in the past decade? There was much in this significant speech that cannot be covered in this space and I shall return to the subject in my Looking Around column on Saturday.


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