Thursday, 24 November 2011

It's a bad day when tabloids need Piers Morgan to make the case for popular journalism

So Piers Morgan, former editor of red-tops the News of the World and the Daily Mirror is to be called to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
His knowledge of phone hacking will be undoubted focus of close scrutiny.
To date although Morgan, now with CNN, is on record admitting phone hacking was prevalent during his days in Fleet Street, no one has been able to challenge his assertion it never happened knowingly on his own watch.
It’s unlikely that will change when he is questioned under oath at the Inquiry. Morgan has vigorously argued his innocence and in the continuing absence of ‘smoking gun’ evidence, his defence is likely to remain bulletproof.
Whether we choose to believe his answers on hacking or not, his testimony cannot come too soon for me.
Only someone of Morgan’s supreme arrogance would be bold enough to suggest the current demonising of tabloid newspapers doesn’t tell the whole story.
I hope he has the opportunity to redress the balance in the thumping popular journalism has received at the Inquiry this week.
The Press Complaints Commission is not the pushover that it has been painted. No newspaper’s editor or its legal department welcome the PCC’s time-consuming attention or the necessity of printing an apology – however small - that might follow.
The press watchdog needs sharper teeth when it is resurrected having first been put sleep as seems likely once the Inquiry delivers its conclusions.
Equally no newspaper likes to be taken to court. Once again preparing a case is onerous and often very costly and bad publicity.
Morgan might also like to remind the Inquiry that the tabloids inform, entertain, and divert millions of readers daily.
The abuses we heard about from the Dowlers alone is sufficient to illustrate how ethics have crumbled among the tabloids. But in arriving at a fix, Lord Leveson needs to be reminded that the sector isn't irredeemably bad.
He must recognise freedom of the press - whatever its ilk - is a pillar of Britain’s democracy even though some of its practitioners are not worthy of the cause.

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