‘How far would you go for press coverage?’ asks Smoking Gun MD Rick Guttridge

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Rupert Murdoch’s empirical influence on British politics ended in one. So how deep does this media rot go?
Allegations are now audible suggesting other titles in the News International group committed similar offenses to the now no more News of the World. As such it doesn’t take much imagination to start pondering on how many unconnected newspapers also fractured this framework of decency, and how many other high profile media types may be called for questioning (mentioning no names, Piers Morgan).
That’s certainly a point irreverent media blog The Fleet Street Blues was quick to point out during the immediate aftermath. Referencing a report from the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2006 (What price privacy now?) the focus is on the use of private investigators by journalists.
This is a common practice, but there is a risk that such sleuths could be employed in order to illegally gain access to information. And, interestingly, according to the cited document, it’s not a Murdoch paper that appears on top of the PI loving pile. Many could be up to much then, or not.
Realistically it’s hardly surprising journalists misbehave, anyone in any contact with the media knows how competitive things are. And that goes for getting coverage too, not just exposing scandal. How far would you go to break news in the media? Would you wait for the perfect story to make, refuse to sex up statistics, and claim the editorial space you feel is rightly yours? Perhaps it would be a wine them dine them job? Maybe you start making things up, or, worse still, break the law?
In reverse, if a PR spins a yarn is it unacceptable for the press to consider turning a blind eye to run with such obviously manufactured content? Is it different if pages need filling and the tale does no harm? It’s not my place to judge, nor would it be wise to, but should anyone else feel obliged to draw a moral line?
From the public perspective it’s easy to understand Jo Reactionary, pointing his angry finger at the media. And that’s fair enough, but this situation also presents us with an opportunity to take a long-overdue look at our own agenda as news consumers.
The hacking story first emerged in 2005 with an article on Prince William’s knee injury. The News of the World was implicated as having illegally obtained details of said misfortune. The paper’s Royal Editor was arrested a year later, but most people outside The Guardian treated the story with apathy until the murder victims of middle England were involved.
As disgusting as that macabre detail is should we not have been appalled way back when all this began? Similarly, Twitter activity following the hacking debacle has been astronomically higher than that of the super injunction debate, which in itself saw hordes of new users adopt the network to get involved. But do both situations not potentially hold equal threats to democracy if public outrage is not sufficient to see legal and political action taken?
I’ll be damned if anyone can predict what happens now after watching a 160-year-old institution- Britain’s largest Sunday paper- closed, seeing Murdoch back out of the BSKYB bid, ongoing arrests and resignations. One thing is for sure though, more people in this world have engaged with the darker side of the press than most want to believe, it’s just nobody seemed willing to accept that until recent events. Let us know your notes on the news, so we can see if they match ours, via [email protected], or use the comments form below.