Please sign up for SubScribe updates
(no spam, no more than one every week or two)
Hacking trial: press coverage
Wednesday 25 June, 2014
The smartest headline of the day - the one that's obvious once you've seen it - to set the ball rolling for the smartest coverage of the end of the hacking bit of the trial.
The Independent goes straight in with the guilty verdict and on to the Cameron link and apology, covering these and the Brooks acquittals in the first three paragraphs. The seven front-page pars also encompass the charges outstanding against Coulson, Scotland Yard's plans to question Rupert Murdoch, Ed Miliband's remarks and Charlie Brooks's complaint that he and his wife were "treated like terrorists".
The splash is given a generous turn on page 5 that allows it to deal with the day's events in court, fuller quotes from the Prime Minister's apology and a catch-up on what happens next.
Andreas Whittam Smith's commentary, which leads the spread, looks at the trial and the Leveson inquiry in tandem, using the evidence from one to illuminate the other. He quietly condemns the behaviour of the News of the World and says:
I subscribe to the view that everything good and everything bad that organisations do originates from the way people conduct themselves at the top. So I shall be watching with interest to see whether the crimes committed by the staff employed by Mr Murdoch are finally laid at his door.
He continues later:
Cruel pressure was put on NoTW reporters. Dan Evans was told he "might as well jump off a cliff" if he could not produce a front-page story, the court was told. Mr Evans told how he systematically targeted scores of celebrities and public figures in a desperate search for exclusive stories. He explained he had a long list of names and numbers he used to attempt to intercept the voicemails of famous people. Phone hacking had become a sort of mania.
The second spread is the one that makes the Independent stand out from the rest of the papers: it bothers to tell the reader - who most likely hasn't been following the case every day for eight months - what were the key points of the trial. James Cusick's run-through is excellent and well complemented by panel on the judge and leading counsel and a light piece about the various daily routines established during the trial.
And on it goes, with a third spread on which the left-hand page deals with Coulson, Cameron and the hacking background, while the right considers what the future might hold for Rebekah Brooks as part of the obligatory piece about how she charms everyone, especially prime ministers and media magnates. The panels on the five other defendants and the four journalists who have pleaded guilty are neat and reader-friendly - but where is Glenn Mulcaire?
Andy Coulson's rise to the top was rapid and spectacular. Yesterday it finally and irrevocably ended with a guilty verdict and a public repudiation from the man who had famously given him a second chance. Friends say that since he was charged with phone hacking three years ago Coulson had been privately expecting and planning for yesterday's verdict. He has sold his house in London to pay his legal fees, taken his children out of private school and put his affairs in whatever order is possible in preparation for a significant prison sentence.
And still it continues, into a fourth spread that describes the hectoring, bullying culture at the News of the World, a culture in which the editor reacts to being named newspaper of the year by sending out a memo ordering staff to pull up their socks. This was the ruthless world, where exclusives were the only acceptable currency, that bred the phone-hacking habit. The analysis column alongside by media editor Ian Burrell looks ahead to the next generation of press regulation - and appears to give a hint, echoed in the leader, that the paper might sign up to Ipso. The Independent and Guardian have yet to show their hand on this; everyone else but the FT has backed the industry's regulator against that being established under royal charter.
And finally, the print offering - on the news pages at least - is rounded off with figures that show how the Murdoch empire has benefited from its enforced break-up in the middle of the hacking arrests, with the family far richer now than before. Sadly, we are offered no figures to back up the assertions.
Does any reader want 11 pages of phone hacking? Probably not and it swallows up a huge amount of the news space, but the coverage shows a commitment to the big stories and a thorough approach to dealing with them properly. A grand job.
Irrespective of the trial's outcome, this has been a crucial episode in the history of the British Press. For it has demonstrated beyond all doubt that newspaper editors, however powerful, are not beyond the reach of a judicial process that should show no fear or favour...
There is no doubt that press behaviour has improved as a result of the hacking scandal and the dishonour it spawned. The fact that a new system of self-regulation does not follow every one of Leveson's proposals and has yet to gain the universal support of the newspaper industry does not mean it won't ultimately raise standards further.
The Independent has not yet signed up to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. Ipso must show its mettle.
Regulation, however, has always been something of a red herring. Journalists must understand and obey the law.
Twelve pages of press reviews, commentary, reaction, videos, links to the best writing from the web and the mainstream media