Thursday, 7 July 2011

'Don't blame all the press for hacking scandal'

The Independent today argues that MPs' indignation over phone hacking by the News of the World has led to the inference that the whole of journalism, and the press in particular, was defined by such reprehensible practices.

The paper says in a leader: "That slur – and it is a slur – needs to be scotched before it becomes a new verity, drawing to itself all manner of calls for tougher regulation and restrictions. There was more than a sense, too, that some MPs were seeking vengeance for the exposure of the expenses scandal.

"It is probably not reasonable to believe that phone hacking and other unethical and illegal practices were restricted either to the News of the World or to the News Corp stable. The chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, spread the net somewhat wider in yesterday's debate.

"But he also allowed that, just as the expenses scandal had tainted all MPs, even though many had not abused the system, so many journalists were appalled about the activities of some members of their profession.

"We were, and we are. But it is also crucial to defend the honour of this and other newspapers, especially at a time when the press as a whole is coming under acute financial pressure. Most journalists and most newspapers well know the difference between ethical and unethical, legal and illegal, right and wrong.

It adds: "Let's not forget that it was not only the MPs' expenses scandal that newspapers exposed, but the phone hacking whose ramifications are being minutely chronicled in some newspapers, including this one, even as others did their utmost to keep it under wraps.Freedom and responsibility in the British media turn bad only when cut-throat ambition spawns illegality and when journalists or proprietors neglect their responsibility to keep a distance from power.

"What the phone-hacking scandal has shown, as it has evolved, is that – for all the scum that sticks to some journalism – Britain still has a free, independent and ethical press, and it remains as essential to the nation's wellbeing as ever."

  • Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan has tweeted: "Sick of references in TV coverage to 'the press' as if we're all the same. Local papers are blameless & a force for good."
  • Ipswich Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover has written to David Cameron urging him not to judge the newspaper industry by the standards of the News of the World, reports HoldtheFrontPage
  • This comment came in via email from a journalist who wants to be anonymous:"Good piece drawing on the Indy comments on the trade and reputation this morning. I've been wanting to post something but, perhaps feebly, I'm worried about getting it in the neck for saying what people think I'm saying rather than what I am saying. And that is that, while plenty of journalists didn't and never would do the stuff the scumbags at the Screws did, plenty more of the public who are now so outraged bought the paper when it was stitching people up. Where do they think they got the info? A lot of the outrage seems to be from people who enjoyed the Screws sticking it to other people but now don't like it when it's being stuck to them. Which doesn't make any of the sticking to right, but is a point. Such is the nature of public discourse that if I say that in public I'll be dismembered by the mob."

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