The editor of Standpoint proved himself a traditionalist by including a television column in his new magazine. In the old days, every editor wanted one. When television supplanted the press as the main source of news, papers developed a parasitic relationship with the medium. Tabloids exposed the plots of soap operas and the sex lives of their stars. All papers regarded TV listings and reviews as essential.
No longer. After 50 years, The Daily Telegraph has given up daily television reviews. When Peter Paterson, the Daily Mail's critic retired in 2006, his editor did not replace him. The Mail on Sunday has cancelled its reviews. Elsewhere, the post of TV critic, once a job for the best writers, no longer brings star billing.
"We're glad you're dying out," a senior broadcaster told me, a little too pointedly, I thought. "Every time a paper loses a critic we rejoice. You never understood television."
He blamed Clive James. For 10 years from 1972, James's television columns for The Observer were "one of the most famous regular features in Fleet Street journalism," as James himself modestly puts it on his website (clivejames.com). Opera critics must be able to read a score. Drama critics must appreciate the limits of the stage. But James had no interest in learning about scheduling and programme-making. He spent his week refining his one-liners - of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "he looks like a brown condom full of walnuts"; of Murray Walker, "in his quieter moments, it sounds like his trousers are on fire" - rather than understanding the basics of the television industry. Young journalists all over London imitated his style in vain attempts to be as clever and successful as him.