Unless you look very hard you will not have seen the Leveson Inquiry session of yesterday mentioned in the news. The inquiry wasn’t taking a day off: it was hearing from seven media academics.
A few quick impressions. The questioning is thorough, rigorous and well-directed, much of it conducted by Lord Leveson himself. Given that so much of the focus is coming down to the less attractive activities of red-top papers, the absence from the inquiry’s panel of “assessors” of anyone with experience of a red-top newsroom seems odder and odder. Partly because such a person could have helped diagnose the problem; partly because the inclusion of red-top experience would bolster the political defences of inquiry conclusions which turn out to be unpopular with the popular papers. Those papers editors’ will give evidence in January and at least some of them are meeting shortly to see if they can organise a common front and shared proposals for the inquiry.
Lord Leveson referred yesterday to what had gone wrong in newspapers in the past “twenty years”. That choice of timeframe reminds us that the unspoken premise of this inquiry is to discover why the suggestions made (twice) by the last judge to consider these questions, Sir David Calcutt, two decades ago did not succeed as planned. There is a clear hint of this (part 1 c and d) in the Leveson Inquiry’s terms of reference.