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Mick Temple's Blog

A MAN OF GOOD DEEDES

22-08-2007

Professor Mick Temple pays tribute to a journalist whose passing represents the death of a different age of journalism - and of politics too.

A legendary journalist has died. W. F. 'Bill' Deedes has finally joined the Great Compositor in the sky. I'd like to use my blog to pay tribute, but also, along the way, to lament the current image of journalists.

Bill was a reporter, foreign correspondent, Daily Telegraph editor, Conservative MP, cabinet minister in the dying days of the Macmillan premiership, friend and confidante of the Thatchers, and, finally, globe-trotting special correspondent and elegant columnist. Some life!

His passing is important because he is perhaps the last link with a previous age when both politicians and journalists had wide public respect.

To a large extent, this was because journalists gave politicians a remarkably easy ride - it took the arrival of ITV for the over-deferential attitude of both the BBC and the press to begin to be blown away.

In 1962, the Profumo affair (in which Bill Deedes helped write John Profumo's statement denying involvement with Christine Keeler) was the catalyst that launched an age in which all politicians are regarded as little better than cheats, liars and crooks.

It's a sign of changing times that the Cabinet, including Harold Macmillan and Bill Deedes, regarded Profumo's denial as incontrovertible proof that the story was false.

It is not surprising that our view of politicians has changed as their misdemeanours have been more fully exposed. But the ridicule with which newspapers (in particular) have treated politicians has also had the effect of making us regard journalists as equally base. They've often seemed to be feeding from the same troughs.

The result? We live in a time when the public trusts print journalists even less than politicians - and fewer than 20 percent of us trust either occupation.

And yet, most of the politicians and journalists I know are decent people (honestly!), trying their best to do a decent job - and Bill Deedes was one of the best. It is rare that a man who achieved editorship of a national daily newspaper is regarded with such affection.

Despite his conservative views, his close friendship with Denis Thatcher, and careers in two often brutal professions, everyone I've spoken to about him mourns his passing. His good humour, open-mindedness and zest for life informed his writing.

Journalism has lost not only a great reporter - it's lost an exemplar.

Which journalists and politicians do Stirrer readers respect, in spite of the poor public image of their respective trades? Leave a comment on our Message Board.
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