"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The News of the World: goodbye and good riddance.
Regular readers will know that I'm not a great fan of the Tabloids: they have done a huge disservice to the name of journalism, becoming a byword for lazy and misinformed rantings and therefore a huge disservice to the British public who, seemingly, buy into what is presented to them as news in these rags. The term "Gutter-Press" was never better used, though, in relation to the News of the World, which went out of publication after yesterday's edition.
For those of you who are either not British or who are but have been on Mars, I offer the following prejudiced analysis.
For some time the issue of hacked e-mails and phone messages has been rumbling along. The police have been involved and News International made strenuous denials and it all seemed to go away, but the rumours persisted even though the NoW published "No inquiries, no charges, no evidence....Like the rest of the media, we have made mistakes ...When we have done so we have admitted to them." which turned out to be one big porky!
It then became clear that through the work of "one rogue journalist" the phones of several celebrities had been hacked. Court papers were served and there was a series of high profile out of court settlements. Last week - was it really only last week? - it transpired that, former police enquiries notwithstanding, the phones of not one but three murdered girls and their families had been hacked and in one case, to the extent that registered phone activity had given the girl's family hope that she might still be alive.
Then we discover that the victims (and their families) of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London had been hacked and then the phones of soldiers (and their families) killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then we discover that attempts were made to find out the medical histories of the former Prime Minister's children and finally - or possibly not finally - we hear that the Royal Family have also been victims. The contagion, it seems, has spread to The Sun and The Times, two other News International titles.
It was something of a shock, too, to discover that the police had had two private meetings with the leadership of the Guardian newspaper in an attempt to play down their breaking news, claiming that there was not enough evidence of phone hacking. Rebekah Brooks, admits paying police officers for information, which is, of course, illegal. Could there be a link? The relationship between executives of News International and senior police officers is yet to be revealed and will, no doubt, make interesting reading. Perhaps this is at the heart of the promised "more revelations to come." as told by Rebekah Brooks to NoW journalists. And at the same time she was telling all and sundry that the Guardian had "deliberately misled the British public." Well I suppose she would have been saying that. Didn't work though, did it?
The public have expressed disgust and advertisers stayed away in droves. (That the public have expressed disgust is, of course, totally hypocritical given the national appetite for the prurient and sleazy: an appetite which has fed these journalistic excesses.) Has the British public no interest at all in the issues that constitute real news or are we fixated on tits, bums, football and celebrity gossip? What a sad state of affairs. If these are the papers in the family home no wonder my pupils know nothing of the world around them but do know who's had sex with who in the "celebrity" - and I use the term loosely - world.
Rupert Murdoch decided to close down the paper, Britain's most successful Sunday publication. Yesterday was its final edition, and what a deluded, self congratulatory and self serving edition it was. As the media commentator Charlie Brooker noted, the final edition was "so rose tinted you could almost smell the petals" as it focused on its scoops whilst ignoring "its ghastly low points" hardly mentioning the phone-hacking issue at all. The British comedian Steve Coogan, a regular victim of the paper, noted "People keep saying its a very bad day for the press. It's a wonderful day for the press: a small victory for decency and humanity....People talk as if they had fallen below their usual high standards. They were already in the gutter, it is just that they have sunk lower than anyone thought they could." He went on to describe it as: "a misogynistic, xenophobic, single-parent hating, asylum seeker hating newspaper." Let's not forget, too, columnist Mazher Mahmood's alternative career as the entrapment Sheikh which arguably led some folk into criminal behaviour.
To read the coverage of this paper one could be forgiven for not realising what a despicable rag it was. The particular joy to be savoured, of course, is the realisation that both Murdoch and News International's Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks have become victims of the sort of mob mentality their paper was so good at targeting elsewhere. In this context I find it hard to buy into the rebranding of NoW journalists as innocent victims: when you sup with the Devil you need a long spoon, as they say. When you make your living on a sleaze rag you've made your moral choice. The Sun, another News International publication, remains in denial. It can't bring itself to lay the blame at the feet of Rebekah Brooks, the Murdochs or the illegal activities of NOW journalists, choosing instead to blame The BBC, The Guardian and Ed Milliband.
All of which highlights the toothlessness of the British Press Complaints Commission. As Peter Wilby, writing in the Guardain noted: " As its name suggests it is a complaints service, not a regulator, and we need something better. A new body should have powers to to monitor and enforce standards, investigate misconduct and call witnesses, insist that newspapers prominently publish its verdicts and, in extremity, impose penalties. It also needs fewer editors and more representsatives chosen by rank and file."
I couldn't agree more. Is there a chance that we might finally see an end to churnalism and the deliberate peddling of misinformation? One can but hope that the demise of the NoW might bring about a change in the way we do newspaper reporting in this country.
I leave the last word to Charlie Brooker: "If the editor's overall tone is more sentimental than apologetic, it's hardly surprising, given that it was assembled by a team who didn't hack a murdered schoolgirl's phone. Regardless, they lose their jobs; the woman who was editor at the time keeps hers. Thank you Rebekah. And goodbye to your staff."