The World is a Better Place Without the News of the World
Today saw the last ever publication of the News of the World, or as fellow journalists had come to know it “The News of the Screws”. Unlike some right-wing commentators like Matthew Parris, I don’t think this is a sad day. I also don’t but the argument that “innocent” current staff are paying for the sins of the past. The NOTW has made a speciality of exposing others’ “wrong doing”, so it is deliciously ironic that the paper has been brought down by its own misdeeds. To suggest that the NOTW is a paper full of excellent high quality journalists is laughable. It has made its name by exposing the personal pecadillos of people it considers to be public figures and the existing regulatory system has proved incapable of curtailing its activities.
The use of phone hacking to obtain stories is despicable and symptomatic of a media without proper regulation. Are we expected to believe that this only happened on NOTW and only in the years under current investigation? Two people I know personally were the subject of enquiries into their private lives by NOTW within the last two years relating to matters entirely in their private lives. They went through hell wondering whether their personal lives would be all over the next Sunday’s newspaper and their families humiliated.
As someone who comes from an essentially libertarian standpoint I do not want to see the press muzzled from conducting legitimate investigative journalism. However, I do want to see the end of the kind of scurrilous and sensationalist journalism in which NOTW specialised. Politicians should always know that journalists stand ready to expose corruption involving the misuse of public funds and favours. However, a royal, a footballer or a pop star having an affair should be no-one’s business except for those immediately involved. It is also interesting to note how the closer you are to a published news story the more you realise how inaccurate is so much of the reporting.
The time has come for the regulation of the media to be put on a statutory footing, with real powers to demand meaningful apologies and award compensation. It is also time for Rebecca Brooks to be replaced at News International. Until she is, there should be no question of the company taking over a further share of British Sky Broadcasting.
The world is a better place for the demise of NOTW but no-one should be under any illusions that the same practices are not used elsewhere. No doubt a new Sunday paper will emerge to take its place but when it does the checks and balances must exist to ensure that it is staffed by law abiding journalists intent on reporting news and not the private lives of famous or not so famous people.