Phone hacking affair should not hinder campaigning journalism
With the death of the News of the World following the phone hacking scandal comes disbelief that this was the same paper which raised more than £1.5m in 48 hours for the McCanns in their desperate search for their daughter Madeleine.
As a former journalist at regional and national level, including work for The Sun and Daily Mail, I can sense the sheer anger and frustration coming from the current newsrooms.
The same paper that campaigned and won the case for Sarah’s Law – enabling parents to ask for a check on those looking after their children following the Sarah Payne murder case – is now in tatters.
Some great, tireless work on behalf of those who need it has been undone, forgotten and now buried under an avalanche of shame.
The truth is that the regime which is at the centre of the phone-hacking allegations was operating some years ago, and many of the current staff were brought in to ‘clean up’ the paper.
More than that, there is now grave danger that the credibility of campaigning newspaper journalism is tainted forever.
The bad news for other national media outlets is that they too may be caught in this firestorm and the backlash that ensues.
There can be no excuse for what has been happening and the means employed to gather information. It was disgraceful.
The Prime Minister has announced two inquiries and we can only hope that this uncovers the truth and scale of these allegations.
However, we also hope that healthy, campaigning journalism for the right reasons is allowed to continue without restraint. After all, it is investigative journalism that has, in part, helped to uncover the full extent of the scandal. That’s what great newspapers are there to do, search for the truth, uncovering corruption and malpractice.
There are calls for a new regulatory body to manage the media process. Certainly, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) doesn’t seem to have been very accessible for the average man in the street.
With this in mind – and a more open procedure for complaints – the media may be able to continue to do the job of campaigner and fighter for good causes as well as providing us with information on important issues that is sound and balanced.
At Freshfield, we run media campaigns and programmes on behalf of our clients often in partnership with a media partner because they are independent and they offer a wider voice.
Grave as it is, we must sincerely hope the British press will not be hampered by this scandal.