Are we playing fair with celebrities?
The phone hacking saga was not so much about crime as about power, according to Nick Davies, the man who broke the scandal.
Maybe, but the central commodity that was being traded was privacy.
The News of the World was far from alone in this. Other newspapers may protest that they did not indulge in phone hacking, but they have certainly published stories that the subjects didn't want out in the open.
Some - it would be nice to say most - will have been in the public interest.
Lying, cheating, hypocrisy are all fair game. That much is simple.
It becomes more complicated when dealing with celebrities, especially those who make a habit of "invading their own privacy". An argument put forward frequently before, during and after Leveson was that stars who court publicity for their latest film, book or album, can't complain if they come under scrutiny when they aren't trying to promote something.
Angelina Jolie's latest film Maleficent was released at the end of May with all the fanfare the Disney machine can produce. It has already made more than $600m. Her stunning looks - she has been voted the world's most beautiful/sexy woman at least a dozen times - and her relationship with Brad Pitt have firmly established her at the top of the A-list tree. Add to this the couple's vast international family, her role as a UN ambassador and her openness about her mastectomy and we can see that there is an insatiable appetite for "news" of her activities.
At the start of her career, however, she projected a less wholesome image, talking openly of being "wild", of her sexuality and her love life.
But does that mean that it's eternally open season on that period of her life? The Daily Mail today devotes the top half of its front page to this puff:
Is this how she is today? Is all this humanitarian stuff a charade? Or is this a sneak preview of her in character for a new film? We have to turn to pages 6 and 7 to find out.
There we discover that this film was apparently taken by a drug dealer who had been invited to "drop by" - code, we are told, for "bring me supplies" - fifteen years ago. The dealer, Franklin Meyer, says that he shot the 15-minute video of the actress talking on the phone to her father Jon Voight with her consent.
Meyer didn't tell the Mail that, though. He told the National Enquirer. The Mail reproduces the quotes from the Enquirer's article, adds its own background and a page of video stills and there you have it, a double page spread.
The actress is not quoted in the piece. The final sentence of the article is "Jolie's representatives did not immediately return requests for comment." I love the "immediately", it's as though there was a five-minute opportunity and after that "we're going with it anyway".
Readers are directed to the video online, but you don't have to go to the Mail's website to see it - you can see it on a dozen sites now, including the Express, Star and Mirror (but not the Sun).
Is this justified? Is it relevant to anything in Jolie's life now or to society in general? Fleet Street Fox writes for the Mirror that Jolie is to be applauded for picking herself up from this state at age 24 to achieve what she has done since.
That seems a fair point.
But why is something that happened 15 years ago news? The message can't be "drugs are bad" because we all know where she is now. But there is nothing on this spread about redemption, about recovery, about how she got herself out of this mess, about where people in the grip of drugs can go to get help - not so much as a phone number.
Nor does it point out that Jolie, as the daughter of a Hollywood star, had money behind her that others probably don't have.
So SubScribe comes to the conclusion that the story is there just because it was available and because the Mail doesn't buy into the "Jolie is the new Audrey Hepburn" schtick (*see the panel on the right for recent coverage).
Or maybe the paper thought "we've had a go at the king, let's do the queen while we're at it".
The picture above is yesterday's page three. It claimed that Amal Alamuddin's mother is not overjoyed at the prospect of her marrying the world's most elusive bridegroom.
Close family friends told the Daily Mail that 66-year-old Mrs Alamuddin wants her daughter to find a man within the strict Muslim sect to which her family belongs.
The report goes on to say: "Those who marry outside the sect are excommunicated, while some members have been killed for choosing partners of other religions."
Mail Online went even further:
There can be harsh penalties for those Druze who marry outsiders.Several women have been murdered for disobeying the rules. Last year a Sunni Muslim man had his penis severed by the male relatives of a Druze woman who defied her family by marrying him.
Clooney was not amused. He issued a statement to USA Today, accusing the Mail of routinely making up stories and saying he didn't care about that, but that in this case it was dangerous because it stirred up hatred.
The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous. We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.
He also said that the Mail story had a fundamental error - that his fiancée was not Druze, which seems to be something that should have been fairly easily checkable.
The Mail responded today by saying that it had not made up the story, which had come from a reliable source. It nevertheless apologised and removed it from its website.
The Mail is now Britain's most read news producer, if you take print and online together. The website is the world's biggest online news site.
It lives and dies on celebrity and its "sidebar of shame", so it is important that it can distinguish between the publicity-craving antics of the likes of the Kardashians, Josie Cunningham and I'm a Celebrity contestants, and people who don't want every facet of their lives to be public property, who do care about decency and accuracy.
That is not the same as saying that Hollywood "royalty" such as Jolie and Clooney should be given a better deal than everyone else. It means that if the trashier end wants to peddle nonsense about themselves, let them. But if you're going to put a story on your front page or page three about anyone, it's a good idea to ensure that (a) it's true and (b) that there is a valid public interest.
Which takes us to The Times. Alexi Mostrous and Billy Kember have been working hard on a series of articles about aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow have felt the heat; today they examine a scheme called Liberty, in which George Michael, Sir Michael Caine, four of the Arctic Monkeys and Katie Melua are said to have invested. Lawyers, doctors, footballers and big businessmen are also reported to have sheltered money from the taxman using the scheme.
That is particularly interesting, because while you might believe that pop stars would let accountants get on with all matters financial, you would expect lawyers and tycoons to take a closer interest. But of course they are not so compelling in bringing the story to the public.
Both the Guardian and the Mirror are also on the tail of people hiding money from the taxman today (HMRC is obviously doing a good PR job behind the scenes). The Mirror focuses on Ingenious Media - the subject of previous Times stories - and names the Beckhams, Ant and Dec, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Gerrard. The Guardian looks at a Jersey branch of Kleinwort Benson and names political donors.
What is different about the Times's coverage is the way it tries to explain what has been going on - and the way it repeatedly points out that these people are doing nothing illegal. There is a panel on the spread today headlined "How Liberty works...and why we are exposing its members". It is excellent.
But is it fair to use Katy Melua, who is said to have paid back all the tax she avoided, as a whipping post when judges who were probably more aware are not named?
Tricky one that. It's important to get people to read the story. Let's see if the lawyers, doctors and dentists are exposed later on.
And so finally to the Daily Star and Miley Cyrus. The front page is shameful. This is not an image that should be seen on the lower shelves of a news stand by children popping into the paper shop for some sweets on their way to school. The picture is a promo still and the headline is a deceit, but the inside has it spot on: "a vid too far". Exactly. Miley Cyrus has form with Wrecking Ball. She is an attention-seeking teenager. For her own sake and for the sake of our own young people, the Star should have denied her that attention.
The Mail and
Story alleging that Jolie and Pitt still owe the Dreamworks theme park in Australia money for an after-hours visit
Story saying women are having unnecessary double mastectomies because of the "Angelina effect" after her statements about her own surgery
Story saying that Jolie feels closer to her adopted children than to her genetic offspring
Jolie in Britain for summit on rape as a weapon of war. Mail takes William Hague and David Cameron to task for schmoozing with Jolie rather than dealing with Iraq insurgency, Syria and other vital world issues
Liz Jones writes a feature saying that people like Jolie make her want to "hurl".
The owner of the fashion brand I travelled with on that occasion told me, out of all the big names – movie stars and supermodels – she has taken to the slums, not one had ever offered up cash.
Which is why the sight of Angelina Jolie, who has just been made a honorary dame, at the London summit on ending sexual violence in conflict last week made me want to hurl.
She is offering up her time, of course. She has plucked enough infants from poverty, to be sure – as well as adopting children, she also sponsors orphans, but this is still perpetuating the idea these people need rescuing, rather than fair trade and a few decades free from civil war.
Story saying the secret of Jolie's perfect skin is that spends £15,000 a year on facials from
a top dermatologist
Video showing Jolie apparently after taking heroin and/or cocaine
The Mail and
The Clooney statement to USA Today
I want to speak to the irresponsibility of Monday's Daily Mail report.
I seldom respond to tabloids, unless it involves someone else and their safety or well being.
The Daily Mail has printed a completely fabricated story about my fiancée's mother opposing our marriage for religious reasons. It says Amal's mother has been telling "half of Beirut" that she's against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride.
Let me repeat that: the death of the bride.
First of all, none of the story is factually true. Amal's mother is not Druze. She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and she is in no way against the marriage — but none of that is the issue.
I'm, of course, used to the Daily Mail making up stories — they do it several times a week — and I don't care. If they fabricate stories of Amal being pregnant, or that the marriage will take place on the set ofDownton Abbey, or that I'm running for office, or any number of idiotic stories that they sit at their computers and invent, I don't care.
But this lie involves larger issues. The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous. We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.
I'm the son of a newsman; I accept the idea that freedom of speech can be an inconvenience to my private life from time to time, but this story, like so many others, is picked up by hundreds of other outlets citing the Daily Mail as their source, including Boston.com, New York Daily News, Gulf News, Emirates 24/7 and so on.
The Daily Mail, more than any other organisation that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up. And when they put my family and my friends in harm's way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence.
They must be so very proud.
The Mail response
On Monday MailOnline carried an article which alleged that the mother of George Clooney’s fiancée Amal Alamuddin would prefer her daughter to be married to a member of the Druze religious group.
Yesterday Mr Clooney said the story was 'completely fabricated' and exploited 'religious differences where none exist.'
In a statement MailOnline said: 'The story was not a fabrication but supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist.
'She based her story on conversations with a long standing contact who has strong connections with senior members of the Lebanese community in the UK and the Druze in Beirut.
'We only became aware of Mr Clooney’s concerns this morning and have launched a full investigation.
'However, we accept Mr Clooney’s assurance that the story is inaccurate and we apologise to him, Miss Amal Alamuddin and her mother, Baria, for any distress caused.
'We have removed the article from our website and will be contacting Mr Clooney’s representatives to discuss giving him the opportunity to set the record straight.'
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