Monday, 11 July 2011

Johann to be kidding...

I have read and dismissed a lot of Johann Hari over the years. Not for any political reason other than much of his flowery, overly-ambitious copy goes against my very being.

However, it never came as any surprise to me that such writing would garner awards from across the world of journalism.

Well, from the world of journalism that puts so much stock in whether a former editor and a Channel 4 news presenter removed from what many would call the 'coal face' these days thinks of you after reading your stuff, with only a 250-word piece you've written blowing smoke up your own arse and a complete lack of any 'real' context for company, anyway.

I must admit to being hugely surprised at his actions, however, and I am attempting to stick to those which he has admitted himself were wrong, involving using previously spoken quotes in his own interview pieces.

I am also surprised at the amount of support he has had. Who the fuck thinks this is okay?

The Independent? Surely not.

Fuck how flowery he can make his copy, simply put yourself in this situation, if you can remember being anywhere but a completely self-facing, patronising place as most national newsrooms are these days.

Your reporter returns from an interview of some importance, yet when you ask how it went and what he or she got, they respond with a blank face and say '[whomever they interviewed] didn't say much, but not to worry as I'll whack in some quotes form their book or from other interviews and write well around it'.

What would you do?

Please do not tell me - while expecting me to keep a straight face - that your reaction would be to pat him on the head, tell him what a good job he was doing and endorse the cheeky little fucker's nomination for a prestigious award.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An allegation too far for the News Of The World?

A while ago, I wrote a piece on how newspapers should be very careful when judging the News of the World as more and more details of the alleged phone-hacking scandal emerged.

I argued then that many newspapers should be wary of the heat given to the News of the Screws as it would inevitably come back to haunt them - and the industry as a whole.

I stand by that, to an extent.

Yet, the latest allegations - that reporters/private detectives hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler before we discovered the horrific truth of her disappearance - do put something of a new light on things.

While never excusing the use of phone hacking, if indeed it was a common tactic for harvesting stories, I defended the needs of reporters under extreme pressure to produce exclusives and stated that many of us would use any means necessary to get the exclusive yarn.

But this does indeed feel like a step too far.

This is not using the tactic to find out if Jude Law is back together with Sienna Miller.

No, this allegation does not simply centre on listening in on messages, but claims messages were deleted once the missing girl's mailbox was full.

This is a whole new ball game, for everyone.

Not only could it have caused the police and her family problems, indeed may well have done, it also suggests a deeper heartlessness which many would have subconsciously ignored when reading of previous allegations and cases.

This story has now entered the world which the NoTW itself loves to harvest - that of the human interest story.

The News of the World itself ran an exclusive interview with the Dowler parents shortly after their daughter disappeared.

Now, it is alleged that they themselves had some hand in what those traumatised parents spoke of, what they thought, what they believed.

Journalists, if we could ever call them that, on the red tops may well have committed the ultimate act of suicide, launched the bullet with their name on it into their own foot, by crossing a line so cherished by their readers and which forms the basis of their own content.

The same self-righteous readers championing NoTW campaigns and shedding tears over interviews like that with the Dowlers, may well now turn on the paper that likes to think of itself as their voice.

The housewives and white van men who take so much comfort in bemoaning the actions of celebrities and the apparent idiocy of councils/the EU/the government highlighted by the NoTW week in, week out, may no longer hide behind the seemingly harmless world of 'well, you can't believe what you read in the papers anyway'.

No, now there is something they simply won't ignore. The News of the World has become the story, exactly the wrong type of story for them because they are now the aggressor against a traumatised family going through the kind of hell they milk every Sunday for sales.

The Milly Dowler allegations take this whole sorry saga to a new level, a level so base that not even the NoTW can ignore it, though they will doubtless hide behind another cloak of denial and shameless misinformation on what went on.

Other papers too must now brace themselves for the fallout, as I predict this won't be the last scandal to emerge from the murky underworld that has become national newspaper journalism.

And while I once warned of the consequences of such a collapse, I now rather welcome the possible demise of the tabloids (and possibly broadsheets) as we know them.

For while these people are spending thousands on private detectives and solicitors to fight battles they really have no right to wage, there are thousands of hard working reporters in the world who have no such resources to call on, no such tactics to use, who walk in to newsrooms up and down the country every day unconvinced they will walk out with a job.

The meek shall inherit the earth, and please, let it be those still working with some sort of integrity.

Great empires such as News International do fall, history tells us so, yet the world keeps turning.

Hopefully, painful though it will be for anyone linked with any newspaper, this could ultimately send it in the right direction.