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Thursday, October 04, 2007 

Usmanov-watch: 9 out of 10 cats.

As something of an addendum to yesterday's post on Usmanov and the curious tale of the journos who didn't feel the need to disagree with anything he said after he'd provided them with a stay in a five-star hotel in Moscow as well as a trip itself in a luxury private jet, Tim has now listed the 10 journalists (Roger Blitz, FT) (David Bond, Telegraph) (Jason Burt, Independent) (Shaun Curtis, Scum) (Matt Dickinson, Times) (Richard Galpin, BBC) (Martin Lipton, Mirror) (Charles Sale, Daily Mail) (Matt Scott, Grauniad, and there may possibly be more) who went on this jolly outing. Of those 10, only Charles Sale of (amazingly) the Daily Mail was completely honest about how he (and they) came to be meeting Usmanov.

I'm not usually one to bash the "MSM" as a whole, mainly because for the most part the broadsheet press (and the BBC, etc) in this country generally manage to conduct themselves with something approaching a probity that doesn't require any sort of intrusive regulation, and quite right too. The tabloids, as even a casual reader will mostly know, are a different matter entirely. This sort of thing though is widespread, and as these pieces all prove, the broadsheet press can be just as complicit in it as any of the gutter rags. It'd be nice to think that bloggers are on the whole above this sort of thing, but that again is also mostly wishful thinking, as previous experiences involving Guido and others testify.

It also won't do to be too high and mighty about it. As any trainee hack will know, you sometimes have to scratch a back or lick an arse in order to get anywhere. We're meant though to have one of the most attack-dog media atmospheres of anywhere in the world, tenacious, unafraid to ask the difficult questions and potentially become unpopular for doing so. In practice, this is mostly complete rot, as the McCann case has showed. I'd go so far to say that some of the media is downright cowardly: they feel more than able to smear, attack and lie about those that can't defend themselves, but when it comes to those who can wield a big stick, as Usmanov certainly can, they instantly turn servile and unquestioning, especially when provided with top quality accommodation and all expenses paid beanos to Moscow.

The other thing to point out is also that the vast majority of these hacks are in effect working for incredibly rich and powerful men or women themselves: whether it's Murdoch, the Barclays, Lord Rothermere or Tony O'Reilly (Richard Desmond would be included in this list but it doesn't appear that one of his hacks was invited), they themselves tend to stick together. Too much questioning of other VIPs can bring swift retribution in whichever form they decide is best. You can't expect a Sun hack to start asking questions of someone about tax avoidance, for instance, without leaving that individual with a gaping open goal to shoot into.

To be frank however, we're the ones who are paying the wages of these people, whether we're clicking on the ads on their sites or actually buying the paper. To have to read all ten articles on the same matter to get a full picture of what was said and how it came to be said is an incredibly poor reflection on the state of the media, or at least when it involves reporting on the rich and currently not yet famous. We rely on these journalists to keep us informed, and not to mention how they came to be in Moscow is shoddy, if not to say dishonest. We deserve better.

Update: Tim received a reply from the FT which clarifies their position on matters of hospitality such as this. Also apologies to Richard Galpin of the BBC who is apparently based in Moscow.

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