The hacking trial: press coverage
Wednesday 25 June, 2014
The Guardian, whose Nick Davies spent six and a half years working on the story that lit the blue touch paper to set off the fireworks, understandably gave the whole of the front page to Coulson, with a sidebar on the likelihood of Rupert Murdoch being interviewed "as a suspect" by Scotland Yard.
The splash text gets the verdicts out of the way in two pars (the acquittals are given the second of the three blog sub-heads) and swiftly moves to the political implications for David Cameron.
The two outside stories turn to page five, where the political story is explored further in a write-through intertwining Coulson's activities as a newspaper editor and as a political spin doctor, including the previous hacking trial and the Leveson inquiry. The spread is completed with a analysis by political editor Patrick Wintour.
Downing Street is not a court of law, and Cameron is not a detective agency. If someone is lying, the blame falls primarily on the liar and not the recipient of the lie. But at another level this might be too lenient on Cameron. If there was “a permanent conversation” echoing in Downing Street, and Cameron was aware it would be a “disgrace” to have employed a man that had overseen phone hacking, he did precious little, apart from look at Coulson with a Nelsonic eye, to find out what had gone on.
The second spread is devoted to a profile of Brooks, with particular emphasis on her special relationship with Murdoch and more than a hint of bitchiness - "she has no friends, only contacts", "she will love-bomb her targets". There is a breathlessness in the language that almost makes you wonder if the authors are parodying tabloid style. It looks much more elegant, by the way, on the website than in print.
"It was this potent mixture of charm and aggression that fuelled her brilliant career, rising from an inauspicious beginning in a semi-detached cottage in the charming village of Hatton, near Warrington in Cheshire. After making tea at the local newspaper during her school holidays, she worked as a secretary at Eddie Shah’s short-lived tabloid, the Post, before climbing on to the bottom rung of Rupert Murdoch’s ladder, as a researcher on the News of the World’s magazine in 1989. Just 20 years later, aged only 41 she was the chief executive of his UK company, running all four of his UK titles."
Friends speak of her sending a chauffeur to Harrods to buy a pate she had liked in a restaurant the previous night; ordering secretaries to get her frocks; insisting on the best tickets at theatres, the best rooms in hotels. As long as she had the weight of Murdoch's power behind her she was not simply influential, but effectively irresistible.
The comment pages
The main comment piece is written by Joan Smith, the author and journalist who has just taken over as executive director of Hacked Off.
She doubts Rupert Murdoch's contrition over the hacking scandal and the impact on those whose phones were intercepted. She describes Ipso as a grandly named PCC in disguise and says that if a regulator fully in line with the Leveson recommendations is not created, further scandals will follow and the past three years will be seen as an opportunity lost.
It is an unmissable irony that a crusading newspaper that prided itself on exposing criminals has now been shown to have been a law-breaker on an industrial scale, sacrificing its reputation - and eventually being closed down - for the sake of getting stories...
Imagine how the press would have reacted had the company at the heart of the scandal been a major bank or an international oil company. Over the past few months a picture emerged in court of Britain's most dominant newspaper business, News International, being literally out of control...But the company's most senior executives and board members insisted they had no idea what was going on.
Imagine for a moment that the chief executive of a bank had mounted the same defence...Newspapers would call for board-level resignations...They would find distasteful the sight of foot soldiers taking the punishment while the most senior generals walked free. And they would be right.
For a while the notion took hold in some tabloid newsrooms...that there was no such thing as privacy...That era is, perhaps, now over. In its place should come respect for the universal right to privacy.
Which was the better angle, Rebekah or Coulson?
One had political
ramifications, the other
far wider general appeal
"The police investigations did get out of hand...but none of this money would have been spent if Coulson hadn't encouraged a culture of hacking and then lied through his teeth for five years, insisting that Goodman was "one rogue reporter".
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