The corner stone of our UK democracy – A free press or a gutter press?

By Dark Politricks

Sunday was the last day the News of the World was printed and read my millions of Brits.

Rupert Murdoch has chosen for pure business reasons to sacrifice a whole newspaper including many innocent staff all to protect one woman – Rebecca Brooks. Is that wrong yes but lets clear some other things up before we lay into the paper.

  • Was the News of the World wrong in hacking the phones of celebrities to gather content for salacious stories? Yes – it’s illegal to do so whether the victims of the hack are celebrities or dead soldiers.
  • Were they wrong to expose the corruption, scandal and political shenanigans that our powerful have been uncovered doing so by the Fake Sheikh and many other great News of the World scoops? No – they often did a wonderful job at doing just that when they actually put effort into uncovering important scandals rather than footballer affairs and other celebrity tittle tattle.
  • Is this only a problem involving the News of the World? No – the whole of Fleet St has been involved in using these “black arts” for a number of years and the reporters at the News of the World are just the first lot of journalists to have been caught with their pants down. Hopefully a full public inquiry will uncover these activities at other papers and we must remember that these investigators  were first hired by Debt Collection agencies to track people who owed companies money and then later moved on to helping journalists track and hack celebrities and others of interest. This has been going on for years and is not limited to one paper.
  • Did the British public lap up all the celebrity gossip, scandal, sex stories and salacious gossip that the News of the World and other red tops print on a daily basis. Yes – the public are hyprocritical to criticise these papers for their methods when they lap up the consequences of those same methods which are the sleaxy stories they buy every day at their local newsagent.

It is very celeberal to think that all of us are the same. That when we want news we go straight to papers like the Guardian or The Independent and skip over the red tops with their front pages covered with huge photos of half naked celebrities and headlines that offer the latest Premiership footballers affair and news about Jordan’s latest boyfriend.

However we are not all like that and it has been shown over the last few years that our print press is dying whlst the internet is being used more and more for people to gain their news.

For the more discerning person interested in news I would say that the Internet offers much more in a variety of viewpoints and independence than our current press which seems to have moved from covering political scandals to celebrity gossip.

I would like to hope that this is because people can access a wide variety of perspectives and viewpoints on a story before making up their mind about the truth of it but I doubt it.

I know that if I want to gain a perspective on a story I will watch the BBC News channel before switching to Russia Today to get an often opposing point of view before searching the Internet and blogosphere for opinions that are often kept from the mainstream media.

Only after gaining as many viewpoints as possible would I be able to make my own mind up about a particular topic.

However I doubt the majority of people are this studious when it comes to their information gathering especially on a Sunday morning.

However finding good information and news on-line can be a hard job for the un-initiated and whatever good exists is often outweighed by vast amounts of guff and innuendo. At the moment the Internet isn’t regulated, and thankfully so, but we  must also remember the UK press are self regulated by their own toothless tiger called the Press Complaints Commission.

This is a body that is made up of newspaper editors which means it’s a body run by those it’s decisions effect and if the paper’s owners don’t like it’s verdicts on particular decisions then they can just leave as Richard Desmond’s papers The Star, The Daily Express and their Scottish versions have done, meaning that these titles are totally unregulated.

I am worried that the scandal at the News of the World will lead to a public inquiry that concludes that a new regulatory body needs to be created to cover all media sources including the Internet and blogoshpere. They might not but there is a chance they could take that opportunity which many have been calling for.

However there is a big difference between the Internet and a blog like mine that gets a few thousand of people coming each day and a paper like the News of the World that at it’s height sold 8 million copies and has it’s headlines thrown in the face of shoppers and passers by from the super market to the local shop and Garage.

I happily admit that before I went to 6th form to study my A levels in Media Studies and Sociology to prepare for my ideal job of becoming a journalist I was very naive about the various perspectives that the world could be seen through. People may mock these types of course now but for me they opened my eyes to the real world.

My courses were in the years before the Internet existed as it does now and in which citizen journalism could be viable reality.  I read red tops, I read the News of the World and other of a similar ilk but I had little knowledge about the Editoral perspective that every paper is imbued with or that two papers could see the same story in two totally different ways.

It was only after learning about Editoral perspectives and bias that I realised that if I did actually go to work for a newspaper as I had initially planned on doing so I wouldn’t be able to write the kind of stories I wanted to and would become just a lacky of more powerful people churning out garbage to fit their own personal agenda.

I wouldn’t be able to investigate matters of importance and put over my own view point because the Editor of the paper would have a political viewpoint that demanded obedience in every line of my output. Once I was taught how papers were really run I realised that I couldn’t work for any of them.

This was in the 90’s and long before the Internet was full of blogs and citizen journo’s bringing their own newspapers to the world on daily basis. I am really glad that I now have the chance to write the kind of articles I always dreamt that I would be able to when I was younger.

It may not be for a newspaper and I certainly don’t get paid for doing it but no-one tells me what to write about and I have no need or desire to ramp up “sales” or “page hits” by printing salacious gossip or celebrity juice.

On Sunday the political shows were full of debates about the merits of UK journalism, the News of the World phone hacking scandal and whether or not we get the press we deserve.

I would say on that last point that we search out the press we want to read and this is a prime reason many people have stopped buying red tops and have gone online to get their news in recent years. This is also a prime reason many papers have turned from proper investigative journalism to printing celebrity gossip.

Whether those people who loved buying the News of the World because of the gossip and sex will just move to another red top or whether they will take this opportunity to look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they should hold some blame for the state of our press I don’t know.

However foolishly I really hope it’s the latter.

Once people realise that money talks and that the real reason Murdoch shut the News of the World (#NOTW) was not because of the public outcry, any internal moral conflict or the legality of the hacking actions but the potential loss of advertising revenue that came once big companies started pulling their adverts then they will see that their 50p they spend in the newsagent can have an effect on society for the good of all.

As we have recently seen people power can topple governments and money still shouts louder than the loudest megaphone. When we next goo out to the local shop to buy a bottle of milk and a morning paper I hope everybody keeps in mind that the way they spend their 50p is a primary cause of the type of content the papers print.  Hopefully they will remember that when they walk past the shelves full of red tops and their more wordy opponents.

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