Friday, 22 July 2011

Tabloid journalism: The case for the defence

A stirring defence of British red-top tabloid journalism comes in a feature by former Mirror journalist Ros Wynne-Jones in the Independent today.

She argues: "As pundits push for greater press regulation, don't think the corporate wrongdoers won't be rubbing their hands with glee: the swindlers and the shaggers, the liars and the cheats. Lest we forget, it's not all been about innocent people and hapless celebrity love rats. With the demise of the News of the World there is one less public policeman – however bent – on the block. Unprincipled methods have been frequently employed against unscrupulous people: the News of the World told us about corruption at the heart of Fifa and Pakistani cricket in the same breath it told us about Max Mosley's indiscretions.

"Tightening press regulation will suit the bad guys immeasurably well. The ordinary folks – who are also the tabloid's readership – get to lose out twice over. Last time I looked, the broadsheets weren't campaigning heavily on the mundane issues that deeply affect working class people – the holiday rip-offs, the loan-shark thugs, the tawdry parasitical underclass that prey on the poor and elderly.

"Apart from kiss and tells, campaigning is one of the things that tabloids do best. Some of the world's best journalism has been tabloid, from the days when John Pilger revealed the cold truth of Cambodia's Killing Fields in the Daily Mirror to the stream of revelations that showed the hypocrisy of John Major's "back to basics" cabinet. Award-winning writing in the tabloids is acknowledged every year at the National Press Awards."

Wynne-Jones also argues: "Meanwhile – breaking news – many tabloid journalists welcome the idea of an ethical broom sweeping through the industry. Not just because they know that the deep cuts facing a declining industry could lead to dangerous corner cutting, but because the illegal methods used by some distort story-getting for all.

"A clean-up will put the possibility for scoops back on a level playing field. Old-fashioned legwork is far harder than paying an investigator for information and it will favour those who are willing to work hard and use honest methods. It will also favour those papers that haven't had the cash to pay for lengthy investigations or have an endless cash supply for the bribes allegedly paid by some outlets."

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