Reviewing Snow’s autobiography, the Labour MP, Denis MacShane, paraphrased Karl Marx: “[Television reporters] offer an interpretation of the world. Snow, one suspects, would prefer to have changed it.” MacShane’s use of past tense was instructive. For if you want to change the world, you go into politics, or argue your case as a polemicist or join a campaign group. You suffer the disappointments, but also feel the satisfaction that comes with making a commitment and fighting for it.
Broadcasting brings the politically engaged presenter or reporter celebrity and money, but extracts a dreadful price. It allows them only to push the impartiality rules so far by, say, asking tough questions of a political opponent but giving powder-puff interviews to a friend. When challenged in debate, their employers will not allow them to stand and fight their ground. They must scuttle away and pretend to be nothing more than civil servants of the airwaves. To use a word they would never use, their chosen careers are “unmanly”.
Conservatives should pity rather than condemn the liberal locked in the gilded cage of broadcast news. For these are lives half-lived.