Printer Friendly

Macdonald on Monday.

I have never been much of a fan of the News of the World and, to the best of my knowledge, have never purchased a copy.

I vaguely remember reading a couple of copies of the newspaper when it did a rather good job in exposing War Minister John Profumo when he was having an affair with a woman who was also seeing a senior naval attache at the Soviet embassy in London.

Given that this was back in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, there was certainly a good deal of public interest justification in the story.

I doubt if they have done much in the public interest since then.

As far as I can gather, this red top specialises in revealing details of the sex lives of football players, politicians and people who appear on reality television programmes.

Exactly where the public interest in these tales lies, is beyond me.

But there clearly is some public interest because up until today 2.6 million people bought the paper every Sunday to relish the personal secrets of the famous and not so famous people and minor members of the royalty.

According to the newspaper, that translates into more than seven million readers.

Now they have lost their Sunday read because of the actions of the world's biggest media tycoon. Around 200 staff have also lost their jobs, even though the vast majority were not working on the paper at the time of the alleged telephone tapping.

Former editor Andy Coulson may have been arrested but Rebekah Wade is still a News International employee in spite of the fact that she was editor and then an executive at the time of the alleged tapping.

Telephone tapping and the level at which intrusion into people's personal lives has now come under scrutiny.

But closing down a highly popular newspaper does not seem to be the way forward if we are to see a tightening of standards in the industry.

The telephone hacking episode raises a number of issues that the industry should address.

The question of freedom of the Press is always a touchy subject with journalists.

While we all appreciate that Press freedom cannot be finite, equally we would argue that if you allow the government to set up a body to regulate the Press you are clearly moving towards state sanctioned censorship and, given recent scandals like MPs' expense accounts, there are doubtless many in Westmin-ster who would not shy away from censorship.

The integrity of an industry that sometimes regards itself as a profession has also been called into question.

But while everyone and his brother is condemning hacking telephones, why is raising the issue of cheque book journalism not also being addressed?

Have we really got to the point that kiss and tell stories prised out of nonentities with the offer of filthy lucre to dish the dirt on some personality is what the news business is all about?

The final issue that the closure of the News of the World raises, and in my opinion the most important issue, is media ownership.

In my time in this industry, there has seen an increasing concentration of the UK media in too few hands.

I think it is shocking that one individual should be allowed to own four national titles. But Rupert Murdoch not only owns newspapers that claim to decide who governs Britain, he is also an Australian born US citizen who does not even have a vote.

Now he wants to own a UK television station too.

But when it comes to concentration of too much media power in too few hands, he is by no means the biggest threat.

When I started in newspapers I was employed by the Alloa Advertiser, which was an independent newspaper owned by one man.

Our major competitors on our borders were Scotland's two largest provincial newspaper groups Johnston Press and Scottish & Universal Newspapers, which each owned about 10 titles.

But for the rest of Scotland, most newspaper companies were family owned and only had one or two titles.

The same was largely the case in the rest of the UK.

How things have changed during my time in this trade.

Today Johnston Press owns 17 daily newspapers and a string of more than 240 weekly publications.

Trinity Mirror, which includes the Daily and Sunday Mirror in its stable, has 160 regional titles, while Northcliffe, owned by the same people as the Daily Mail, boasts more than 200 daily and weekly titles.

Newsquest, which is US owned, has 200 publications.

At a national level, I am greatly concerned about the fact that a few media groups have massive power, but we are now getting to the point that the local media is owned by massive conglomerates, and that is something that cannot be good for journalism.

Local newspapers are no longer local. They are simply cash cows for international organisations who are more interested in advertising revenue than they are in providing a news service to local people.

What made local newspapers local n my day was not the journalists but the owner.

The guy who ran the Alloa Advertiser lived in the community while even a 10 stable operation like Johnston Press was run by a guy who came from Falkirk and was part of the local scene.

Journalists on local newspapers tended not to be local.

They were all there covering the Menstrie flower show or the latest news from the Dollar Academy sports day, dreaming of the day they would hit Fleet Street.

Ownership made local papers local and that is now a thing of the past.

But ultimately it is ownership of the national Press that particularly bothers me. It is almost 10 years since the events that have led to the telephone tapping scandal have come to light.

Yet in that time has the News of the World carried out any investigation into the manner which it carried out its news gathering operations?

I think not.

But I think it should have.

I cannot believe that any editor of a newspaper would not have quizzed the journalists in question where they were getting their information from.

More importantly, I cannot believe that any editor was not questioning why they were paying money to the mobile phone hacker in the first place.

There are serious questions that have to be asked about the veracity and integrity of UK journalism in the wake of this scandal which go way beyond the single issue of a bit of telephone hacking.

Anyone who comes from the UK and witnessed the coverage of recent events in Bahrain would have to agree that something is rotten in the state of British journalism.

Copyright 2011 Gulf Daily News

Provided by an company
COPYRIGHT 2011 Al Bawaba (Middle East) Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jul 11, 2011
Previous Article:Time 'to rebuild trust'.
Next Article:Unrest-hit store closes after 64 years...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters