The big news on the home front in the last week or so was obviously the big reveal for the Leveson Inquiry. This issue was never exactly close to my heart despite being one of the news media and journalism, as it never really dealt with my kind of journalism. I despise the world of tabloids and gossip, and as far as I could tell, the travesties that led to the Inquiry had nothing to do with the international affairs or even domestic ones of any serious import that I follow. The Inquiry itself was more of a news piece than many of the stories it involved.
To be clear, I care about the murder of a young girl like Milly Dowler and I do care about the fates of those families who lost loved ones to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The manner in which I care though is probably quite different to the manner in which a reader of those know publications, now in disrepute, cares. I heard about Milly Dowler and was deeply saddened, can empathise with loss and have a deep, abiding respect for anyone who joins the Armed Forces. I have on the other hand, little to no interest in the sort of in-depth, Victorian-era grotesquerie as provided by many national prints.
Make no mistake, what certain journalists did around these cases was a dictionary example of immorality. But the Leveson Inquiry was not awfully cautious about making a strong distinction and it was for others to defend the incredibly important profession of journalism as it should be. To me, journalism is an essential pursuit in which practices are often daring, dangerous, clever and wholly vital to proper knowledge. There is no natural association with phone hacking and bribes in my mind and thus there must effectively be two types of journalism – real and tabloid.
It’s hardly breaking the thought mould there but I think it’s important to persistently reiterate the fact so as not to drag many an incredible talent into the murk of hacks. The debate on Leveson’s final judgement and Cameron’s reaction raged for a few days but has been reduced to a steady fizzle in the onslaught of other events and developments. Worryingly, the only notable distinction being made was between print and online spaces.
But what of the judgement? A regulatory body with statutory underpinning is required rather than a statutory regulatory body, but either way it’s irrelevant because Cameron wouldn’t budge on even the lighter interpretation. I will be cautious in agreeing with Cameron, as one should these days, as I’m still not entirely sure I agree with him for his reasons. His revolve around that rather hypocritical political argument about not installing statute that can be used gradually for political gain or exploitation.
Quite the good Samaritan really. Alternatively, any excuse is better than admitting he doesn’t want to annoy the media with further regulation only a couple of years from an election in which he will really very badly need media support. I don’t mind though, politicians will be political, and ultimately he doesn’t want a regulatory system that is basically already in existence.
Ian Hislop phrases this most effectively – why do we need further regulation when there is a system of laws in place that will properly deal with an offending tabloid journalist if caught and properly prosecuted? By all means fine publications a meaningful amount for wildly libellous statements but in terms of ensuring the conduct of journalists and editors, just make sure the actual law is working. If this requires picking apart the hellishly intertwined relationships of journalists and police then by all means, but don’t go about the tired business of shock and outrage followed by overreaching and unnecessary measures.
An attempt to make sure this kind of thing never happens is naïve. Extra regulation or not, some unscrupulous prat working for whichever rag will eventually hack another phone and when he does, we can put others off that kind of behaviour by sending him to jail.