Freedom of the Press matters to me. It is part of the foundation of any democracy worthy of the name.
This belief is the starting point of many of my posts on politics and the media. I maintain, for example, despite its failure to get to grips with the telephone hacking scandal, the Press Complaints Commission should continue as the industry’s self-regulating watchdog.
The police and Parliament were lied to by News of the World executives, so why should the poorly staffed PCC – which in any case had no investigative powers – have done any better? Give the watchdog more teeth, I say.
That said, hand on heart, and while sorry for the hundreds who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, I cannot see the demise of the News of the World is any great loss.
It makes me uncomfortable to share the same platform as Max Mosley, Hugh Grant, and Steve Coogan, rich men who consider there should be no consequences from their peccadillos.
So here first is the case for the defence eloquently expressed by David Wooding, until Saturday night the newspaper’s political editor.
Writing online in The Guardian, he said “It was a good day for the bad guys.” “Villains, paedophiles and corrupt politicians will be able to sleep more soundly…”
It was the bread and butter stories – the three-in-a-bed romps, randy bishops, benefit cheats, and coke-snorting celebrities – that I couldn’t stomach. All the human garbage submerged genuine public interest investigations and campaigns as well the newspaper’s support for worthy charities.
The News of the World’s 7.5 million readers won’t be denied their weekly trudge through the gutter for too long. The Sun on Sunday is waiting in the wings.
Although I have been harsh on the newspaper reading the News of the World didn’t make you a bad person. For a modest outlay you could thrill to the freak show without becoming deformed. Watching a slasher movie doesn’t turn you into a serial killer.
Like George Orwell said all those years ago of the English Sunday afternoon: “You put feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose and open the News of the World.” Well, not any more. I wish I could feel sorry.