17 OCTOBER 1998, Page 28

Sullied scribes

Sir: 'Absolute lack of power corrupts abso- lutely ... ' (Pierre Trudeau's comment on a Canadian journalist).

Practitioners of today's investigative jour- nalism get out of shape all too easily in the competition for sensational revelations. Stephen Glover's praise for Evans- Pritchard, Hitchens, Tyrrell, et al. (Media studies, 19 September) and condemnation of liberal newspapers he claims were too easy on Clinton are a classic example.

In a piece in the Telegraph Evans- Pritchard uses the word 'evil' to describe aspects of southern Democratic politics. One wonders how he would have described the murkier aspects of LBJ and Kennedy, who were more evil than Clinton by any measure, or Milosevic, Castro and Suharto.

There is evidence that the American pub- lic's increasing support for the President is partly due to their aversion to the assumed powers of the media. They understand that people like Hitchens are in the business of selling sensation. It's hard to maintain cred- ibility after a failed attempt to discredit Mother Teresa.

Mr Glover's piece avoids altogether the views of the people who elected Clinton. Unlike our investigative journalists, the US public does not think the President is a `crook'. In their everyday lives they know people who have sexual idiosyncrasies and lie about them. They have teenage children who do the same thing, and they have friends and relatives who act like teenagers in their private lives.

The media, or the investigative part of it, are being ignored. In their frustration, they have fallen back on old fantasies such as the 'murder' of Vince Foster. They have gone stampeding over the top and are in danger of getting lost in the same dreary no-man's-land that the Republican Congress is wandering around in.

Tony Chesterman

Thornhill House, Hollywater Road, Passfield, Hampshire