It is always fun to see a repeat of what has been there already. So I was not that surprised watching Sky News and getting another press approach for their regulations. They found another person to step in front of the camera. They made sure that this time there is an utter lack of arrogance. It turned into a casually moment of pointing blame on the politicians. In this case it was John Witherow from the Times. Well, the message is actually simple Mr Spokesperson we the people do not trust you at present!
All this is happening right when another editor of the Sun is being charged (Duncan Lacombe).
So we have the journalists in a corner for a change, oh goody! THEIR view of ‘the people have a right to know‘ has so far seemed to be nothing less than the option to overrule the people’s privacy at a moment’s notice.
It is of course an issue listening to Sky News for the simple reason that they are journalists themselves. Things seem to be pressed on one side and trivialised on the other. I still hang to the original idea that the Leveson report should completely be implemented with a (non-)political option of legislation.
Before you judge me to be against freedom of speech then you are wrong. I am all for freedom of the press, yet the Murdoch crowd (sorry for generalising this) has proven that their freedom to do whatever they like should not be an option even again. You see, one side we have the freedom of speech and on the other side we have the right to privacy, which too often is crushed by the press stating ‘the people have a right to know‘, whilst in reality it is just about making the quick visible exclusive visibility and their need of ego at the expense of anything else.
Issues that also surfaced (the Milly Dowler case) is yet another example. In that case not only was there no investigation, there is even more issues with a police force that as stated by sky news on April 25th ‘has a case of collective amnesia‘.
Or as quoting a line by the Guardian of April 24th 2013 “while a former senior officer from Surrey police said the press was ‘untouchable and all powerful’“. So not only is the press doing whatever it likes, it is interfering with police investigations, like they are the flipping ‘Special Branch’ (since 2006 known as SO15). Perhaps Commander Richard Walton could confirm whether the press is currently on their pay roll, which would allow for some awesome cost cutting solutions. Mr David Cameron would be so pleased.
We might never know what happened in the case of Milly Dowler. It is not unlikely that the phone hacking resulted in a loss of messages. Lost voice mail messages that could have assisted the Surrey Police department in their investigation. It is interesting that I read in the Guardian “An NoW journalist (name redacted)” It is interesting how that Journalist was redacted. So, Mr Witherow, how about the option of name redaction to be removed as a right for Journalists? How about an open name and shame issue where those people who seemed to have harassing the Surrey Police to be openly known to all. By your own words: ‘the people have a right to know‘.
My bigger issue is with some of the points mentioned (I will be playing the devil’s advocate here).
1. A majority of independent members on all the bodies of the new regulator, with open and transparent appointments.
– My worry is that those appointments might not be as independent as we would like.
2. Public involvement in how the new Code of Practice will be framed.
– My worry is that this is one certain way to get loopholes placed and more of an issue is the delay that this public involvement brings. Delays the press would love to see going on and on and on.
I do agree that regulation should remain outside of the reach of politicians. Yet, adding regulations, even if it was a clear regulation to the conduct of the members of the press is needed. This is the part all media seem to be fighting, as they seem to prefer to remain footloose, fancy free and non-accountable. This is where I am no longer on their side (as the evidence over the last few has proved).
Yet, there is another side to journalism which I do not want to ignore. For every 500 half-baked phone mail chasers that call themselves ‘investigative jounalists’ there will be a real journalist like Paul Lewis or David Bergman (that group is larger than these two, but a lot smaller than most might realise). Here is the crux as they say. I would not want to hinder a journalist like David Bergman, or those hoping to step in his footsteps. Yet, the kind of ‘writers’ that many have been confronted with in the past, especially celebrities and victims of high profile cases there is one journalist that is there to dig into the shady sides of people, collecting specific information in whatever way they can to uncover the truth and the reality.
This reminds me of a scene in the West wing Season 2 episode ‘War Crimes’:
Will: “I don’t like being a stenographer. And I don’t like writing gossip. I read a column last week where a lady bemoaned the decade of scandals she’s had to cover, as if the news was to blame for the quality of journalism. I don’t know if there’s ever been a more important time to be good at what I do. Can you imagine how much I don’t give a damn about what Toby said to a staffer?“
It makes my point stronger then I could (it is Aaron Sorkin at his best). Too many Journalists are way too happy to cover gossip and get their stardom visibly shown in any way they can. The environment made them that way and it must change. I am still baffled by the issues, delays and opposition against the Leveson report. If anything, that report shows the weaknesses and also called for proper legislation and regulation to protect the privacy of people (without stopping the freedom of speech). Of course this is not what the press wants as they want to just do, post and publish whatever they like, especially when it is about ratings and circulation.
The only thing that is currently interesting is that at present politicians are trusted more than journalists are. Who would have ever thought that such a day would ever become a reality?