Tag Archives: media

Now can we have the truth please?

So the News of the World is no more! Sleazy politicians, nymphomaniac housewives, spivs, perverts and gangsters can relax in the knowledge that “Uncle Rupert’s” moral torch won’t be shining on them for some while yet. Two hundred people and 168 years of history have gone in a heartbeat. An example of how the corporate juggernaut runs over the innocent bystanders when the empire is under threat – well that’s how it looks to me anyway.

Let’s not forget the words of a certain Jesus Christ who once referred to stones being cast by those arrogant enough to think they’re without sin. Maybe too many rocks have been flung by senior News International managers with the most to hide. Had The News of the World become a dangerously toxic title? Yes! But who took it to such a lethal point in the first place? Well the jury’s out on that one but we can guess which way the fingers are pointing!

I know plenty of print journalists (some of whom worked for the Murdoch press), who neither hacked into people’s messages nor bribed police officers. Their professional standards simply wouldn’t allow them to stoop to such levels of moral squalor. I don’t know why or when the tide turned in the wrong direction at Wapping, or how it’s possible to exist in a working bubble where a culture of getting a story at any cost is more important than the human consequences. What’s so disturbing is that no low was off limits to these so called “professionals”. When they weren’t deleting the messages of a murdered schoolgirl, they were allegedly accessing those of British military personnel killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, along with the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks. Who’s next – a rape victim perhaps?

This whole nasty saga (which still has many lengths to run) has thrown up a welter of issues including press regulation, the restoration of public trust in the media and the police and why sme of our political leaders assiduously tunnelled up the cavity of a certain media tycoon who isn’t even resident in theUK! It’s a sorry day when elected representatives feel more beholden to powerful members of the fourth estate than to the ordinary men and women who voted for them. There’s nothing wrong with politicians having a relationship with the press, but it’s one that should be managed carefully.  That’s as true for politicians as it is for other public servants. When the one with the fattest wallet is pulling the strings all the time that’s when you know you’re in trouble.

So where do we go from here? Who knows, although the announcement of two new investigations (one to be led by a judge), do give rise to hope along with the progress to date of Operation Weeting (the latest Met investigation into phone hacking). One could be cynical and say the debacle of the inquiry that preceded it is a guarantee against failure. That may be true but frankly I’m not bothered, just as long as the rotten apples are emptied from the barrel: and I’m not just talking about the fruits from the lower branches of the tree. If News International is serious about atoning for its misdeeds then senior heads must roll. This is no time for hiding behind the: “I had no idea this was going on” excuse which disturbingly echoes the: “I was only following orders” defence. It’s implausible and an affront to human intelligence.

Likewise News International must stop playing corporate pass the parcel. For those who aren’t familiar with the rules let me enlighten you. Take a scandal pass it along a line of players and the one who can’t get it out of their hands fast enough is stuck with the mess! There’s been quite a bit of game playing at NI and I have a feeling that at some juncture the parcel may have to work its way back to the top of the line.

The British press will survive this appalling scandal, (bruised, slightly broken but still standing nonetheless), although that might not be true for some of the victims left behind. It was easy to turn a blind eye when a sprinkling of celebrities (some of whom most of us had never even heard of), complained their phones were being hacked. The assumption that because they were famous meant they were fair game overlooked the fact that phone hacking is illegal and that messages left on a handset are supposed to be confidential. Clearly the point had been lost on Glen Mulcaire!

The British press may be down at the moment but it isn’t necessarily out. We’ve had enough explanations as to why this may have happened (and doubtless many more will be dished up in the coming days) but it’s time to move on and bring the guilty to justice, no matter how high up they are in the food chain. There can be no real sense of closure until that element is satisfied and for those in denial of their culpability remember, you can run but you can’t hide!



Filed under Journalism

UK elections give us a lesson in partiality

I suspect I’m not the only person in the country that kept a reasonable distance from the general election coverage. Don’t get me wrong I did follow events, but I refused to let myself drown in the television, radio and newspaper blitzkrieg. Nor was I ever accosted by canvassers offering to pay my mortgage or send me on a round the world luxury trip, if I voted for their candidate. Whether such an inducement would have influenced my decision is open to debate, but in the run up to polling day I maintained an aura of cool detachment while quite a few of my friends were getting more than just a little hot under the collar.

So when did my position of partial indifference swing to razor-sharp alertness? I can pinpoint the exact moment to when I dragged myself out of bed at 5.30am on Friday 7th May, the day after the polling stations closed. When I went to bed the night before, only a handful of results had been counted – five hours later I woke up to a hung parliament. Physically I didn’t feel any different but emotionally I was more revved up than a bull on speed. In fact I wasn’t the only one. I was on a Eurostar train en route to Paris with a group of friends, and hung parliaments were the only topic of conversation in all but one of the carriages. “How could this have happened?” they asked, “Where do we go from here?” “Do you think they’ll call another election?” By the time we reached Gare du Nord station we were no closer to finding the answer, nor were our French hosts, who were as amused by the situation as we were perplexed. As one of them succinctly put it democracy’s a great thing… except when nobody gets the result they’re looking for. C’est la vie!

One thing I certainly wasn’t looking for was the incredible backlash against the press. It always has been and always will be in the firing line of criticism, but this time there seemed to be more bullets flying around than usual. Thankfully I wasn’t involved in any of the actual coverage but it’s rather disconcerting when strangers accost you in the street and personally accuse you of bias because you happen to work in the media. I could probably deal with that if I really was guilty as charged, but since I’m not a political journalist, I think the accusation was rather unjust. Nevertheless I genuinely understand why a number of people were concerned about the press coverage. We’re intelligent enough to make up our own minds as to whom we should vote for, and we shouldn’t be railroaded into a decision by overt journalistic prejudice.

I’m all in favour of freedom of opinion, but that doesn’t include maliciously rubbishing one candidate over another or crucifying their reputation, because an editor dislikes their politics, their social background or the colour of their tie. You know you’re in trouble when spite masquerades as objectivity!

However there’s room for hope. The hung parliament predicted by the pollsters may have been bad news for Westminster, but it was good news for democracy because in the final analysis it was the will of the public rather than press opinion, that ultimately prevailed. That fact alone ought to give the media enough room for reflection, however there’s still always the possibility someone out there will use their position to try to manipulate us into voting a certain way. Old habits die-hard!

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Filed under Journalism