The hacking trial: press coverage
Balancing the scales of justice
Wednesday 25 June, 2014
It's hard to believe they're telling the same story. The two best front pages of the day in terms of design and wit approached the denouement of the phone hacking trial from quite different directions.
For the Sun, it was unequivocal. The acquittal of Rebekah Brooks and her entourage was justice finally being done after a witch-hunt against her personally and the Press in general. It doesn't even mention the conviction of Andy Coulson on page 1.
For the Independent, the conviction of the Prime Minister's former director of communications and its ramifications for David Cameron is the central point, the "not guilty" verdicts of the other five defendants something to be recorded during the course of the narrative.
It could be said that the papers reacted tribally to the verdicts. For there was something there for everyone: "vindication" for the free press campaigners who argue that the entire police operation and Leveson inquiry were a waste of public money; "proof" for the Hacked Off lobbyists who believe the Press needs firmer constraints.
Three papers splashed on Brooks, three on Coulson and the Mail tried, unsuccessfully, to do both. It was natural for the Guardian to home in on Coulson, and its columnist Owen Jones was contemptuous of the Times.
such a woman being despatched to Askham Grange had been the most keenly discussed facet of the whole proceedings. But instead, here she was heading off in a swish black car to be reunited with her young daughter. The choice of Brooks as the Times splash may have been a case of following orders from across the Atlantic - or at least, second-guessing the big chief - but it could equally have been because the verdict came as a surprise.
That there had been hacking at Coulson's paper was common knowledge, half the defendants had pleaded guilty and there was a widespread assumption that Brooks would go down, taking her husband, PA and security chief with her. Only those following the case closely would have realised that the evidence against her was circumstantial, basically coming down to "she was his lover, she must have known".
The Sun, of course, was bound to take the line it did - and very wittily it did so, too. Though whether yesterday was a good day for red-top tabloids is open to question. Contrary to what many might believe, no Sun journalists have been accused of phone hacking, but there are other cases in the pipeline in relation to alleged payments to public officials and computer hacking, and the Mirror group has not emerged unscathed from the huge police operations.
The hacking trial
Much has been made of the £100m trial...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, the royal editor jailed for listening into Prince William's voicemail, in 2006, was "one rogue reporter"
- the SubScribe commentary
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