Thursday, 30 August 2012

Self regulation of the press is a dead duck - claims updated book on hacking and the Leveson Inquiry

Self regulation of the press in the UK is a dead duck and Lord Justice Leveson will be the "crowbar for change", according to a newly updated book of articles on the hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry.

John Mair, co-editor of the second edition of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial, states: "Self regulation of the press in the UK is now as dead in the water as a wooden duck in an MP’s pond. Dead and buried. It was always a nonsense for the editors to regulate themselves delivering an odd slap here and there to little avail. The fig leaf of lay members of the PCC was always just that – a convenient cover.

"You cannot be the judge and jury in the modern world. Broadcasters in Britain are subject to the rigours of the law, so why should the printed press not be? The newspapers have drunk their last drink in the last chance saloon."

He adds: "The 2011 Society of Editors conference examined Hackgate and the PCC from every which way and concluded that the best posture to take was an ostrich one. Denial and tinkering with the PCC was the order of the day. It still is. This simply will not wash. Lord Justice Leveson will be the crowbar for change there."

Mair is scathing about the appearance of  Paul McMullan, the former deputy features editor of the  News of the World, before the Leveson Inquiry and suggests it should be broadcast as a warning of the "twisted moral compass of tabloid hacks" to all first year journalism students.

He writes: "McMullan is a caricature of the tabloid journalist. The hack’s nightmare or dream. You can almost picture him in the long raincoat and trilby with a ‘PRESS’ card tucked in...McMullan’s evidence is jaw dropping. He admits when on the News of the World to breaching people’s privacy as a matter of course, harassing them and more. In his world view – and he says also of his fellow tabloid hacks – ‘Privacy is for paedophiles’."

Mair, an associate senior journalism lecturer at the Coventry University department of media and communication, adds: "McMullan’s Leveson appearance and his tour d’horizon of the twisted moral compass of tabloid hacks should be played to all first year wannabe journos at university as the antipathy of what we might expect from them."

The Leveson inquiry has shown that the police and the press are seemingly too often in bed with each other aided by greased palms and other favours, says Mair.  "News International executives went in and out of a revolving door at Scotland Yard – allegedly with pockets full of gold. That had to stop and will stop. Some good investigative journalism may suffer as a result in the short term but it is a small price to pay."

He also claims politicians "need also to get out of the beds of the press barons and lose their fear of their power."

But he concludes: "Good journalism works! Nick Davies (and Alan Rusbridger) of the Guardian did not give up for two years and more. Davies did what good, hard working hacks do – he dug, dug and dug and ignored the noises off, however powerful the voices. Some journalists have an ethical frame and they will be determined to get to the truth, however uncomfortable for them. The Guardian has already been garlanded with newspaper/media industry awards including a Media Society one in May 2012 for which I nominated them. Deservedly."
  • The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial, edited by John Mair, Richard Lance Keeble is published by Abramis on September 17. It can be ordered at the special rate of £15 via

1 comment:

Ben Fenton said...

John, interesting point about McMullan to me is that he could be represented as a caricature of (tabloid) journalism, but that is equally true of many people tabs (and others) choose to quote as "representatives" of other industries,professions etc. It would be "hoist & petard" time if he was to be used as an emblem of UK journalism by Leveson. Which I doubt will be the case.