What is journalism for?
Paul Chadwick had a crack at answering this small question in the Guardian in November. His answer is nuanced, but boils down to four key elements: to “help civil society cohere”, to “facilitate democratic processes”, to “lubricate commerce”, and to “make and mix” culture. These are all valid observations, and nothing I will say below will contradict them. But I do think there is a more fundamental answer.
On the Today programme this morning there were three items which examined aspects of the same question. Jim Mullen, new CEO of Reach, defended his newspapers’ treatment of Caroline Flack and their approach to local journalism; Julian Assange’s lawyer spoke in his defence ahead of his extradition hearing; and the unlikely duo of Toby Young and Trevor Phillips spoke in defence of free speech and the launch of Young’s Free Speech Union.
It is striking that all the articles were in defence of their subject. Journalism is under attack from all sides.