Outgoing Press Complaints Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer has urged newspaper publishers not to let their standards drop during the recession.
As unprecedented job cuts are made in newspapers, Sir Christopher said that if publishers were to let high journalistic standards fall due to the "hollowing" out of jobs in the media it would be like "selling the family jewellery."
He added: "To maintain credibility with readers you have to have high quality journalism."
Sir Christopher said it was part of the PCC's remit to be vigilant on editorial standards and uphold the editors' Code of Practice.
He warned the PCC had already noticed a "wobble" in online reporting. He said publishers should apply the same standards to their web and print products, with "the buck stopping with the editor".
Sir Christopher bows out at the end of March after six years. In a briefing to journalists he said there were three achievements of the PCC he was particularly pleased with.
These were that the threat of the PCC being put under state control via Ofcom had subsided. He said the Government and Conservative Party both favoured self-regulation as the best way to regulate the press. "From wide contacts we have, it is pretty clear the centre of gravity is with self regulation," Sir Christopher said.
He also welcomed the increase in the number of people who have come to the PCC over the past six years, claiming: "We have become a Citizens' Advice Bureau on the media, we have critical mass."
Thirdly, he welcome the fact that 99 per cent of those helped by the Commission were ordinary members of the public, although there was a tendency for the PCC to be judged "through the prism of celebrity complaints."
Sir Christopher added he had no plans to follow up his controversial memoirs of Washington "DC Confidential" with "PCC Confidential."
The PCC's 2008 report, published today, shows there were 4,698 complaints about the British press last year, a rise of 8 per cent on 2007. There were 329 privacy rulings, up 35 per cent on the previous year.
The most complained about article was by Times columnist Matthew Parris headlined: "What's smug and deserved to be decapitated?" Cycling enthusiasts strongly objected to the suggestion that piano wire be strung across country lanes to decapitate cyclists, as a punishment for littering the countryside.
Although the Code of Practice was not breached, Parris apologised.
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