29
Nov 12

Leveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than feared

This is a rapid gut and comment on the Leveson report executive summary released today. The complexity of his regulation-legislation solution seems to have masked the genuine severity of his audit of what some newspapers have been doing.

No report on the press would be complete without a quotation from Thomas Jefferson and Lord Justice Leveson obliges on page 4: “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.” The next fifteen pages demonstrate exactly the opposite.

Leveson does not think much of the “culture” of the press (as his terms of reference called it). Indeed it seems unlikely that he would even think the word “culture” the appropriate one. He is outraged not just by bad behaviour but by what he seems to think was a lack of any moral sense: “There have been too many times when, chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as it its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist.” Note the “which it wrote” dig at hypocrisy. (para 7)

He makes a nod to the fact that the press does hold its own powers to account, citing (para 10) both the Guardian’s investigation of the News of the World and the ITV and BBC Panorama’s investigation of Jimmy Savile. He acknowledges (para 18) that commercial changes have increased pressures on newspapers “to find different ways to add value” (without accepting this as an excuse for anything at all).

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Leveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than fearedLeveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than fearedLeveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than fearedLeveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than fearedLeveson quick read: severe narrative, law/regulation better than fearedShare This Post

07
Sep 10

Hackgate and Coulson: privacy law comes closer

Just as it would be hard to explain why some fires start slow and some blaze immediately, predicting which stories will catch on and be replayed and expanded and which don’t is not an exact science. Some stories spread, well, like wildfire and others splutter and crackle without really catching and then, suddenly, woomph…they’re fully alight.

So it has been with the allegations of widespread phone-tapping at the News of the World. A story has entered the nation’s saloon bar and water cooler conversation when it provides the joke for a Matt’s daily cartoon.

Because Andy Coulson, the NoW’s editor at the relevant time, is now the Prime Minister’s spokesman, much of the coverage has been fitted to one of the iron templates of political reporting: will he stay or will he be forced to resign?

This isn’t exactly a distraction, but it isn’t quite the big long-term issue either. For all the diligence of the reporters of The Guardian and New York Times who have been driving this story, the single widest revelation of phone interception (and “blagging” confidential information) commissioned by journalists came the Information Commissioner in 2006 and derived from discoveries made during a police investigation into a private detective, Operation Motorman (see para 27 here). The staff of the News of the World may yet be revealed to have done more phone “screwing” than any other paper; but they were hardly alone.

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26
May 10

Life expectancy of newspapers: and the answer is…

On a recent radio debate, Sunday Times editor John Witherow and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger both said that the latest printing press purchases by their companies were likely to be their last – thus putting a rough outer limit on the number of years they think their titles will be in print. Thirty years and twenty respectively.

A senior honcho at Pearson, owners of the FT, shortened this to (maybe) five years at a seminar this week. Er, not quite, said a different suit at the FT, rowing back some way. Rob Andrews of PaidContent has very helpfully rounded up here this new readiness to schedule the death of print in more detail then ever before.

Or, as Jeff Jarvis tweeted today: “They said I was nuts when I saw an end to print. I’m getting more company in the asylum.”


29
Mar 10

Rusbridger and Guardian presses

Time for a mea culpa. I was rung last week by The Independent for an opinion on the financial troubles of Guardian Media Group. Arguing that the group was not just in trouble because of its digital investments, which may turn to be farsighted spending, I said that non-digital costs were also bearing down on the balance sheet.

And I added: “Spending a staggering amount on presses that have made no difference to the print circulation was a huge mistake.” The Independent got so excited about this soundbite that it reproduced it two days running.

I took hyperbole too far. The investment made by GMG in its new Berliner presses a few years ago didn’t make any difference to The Guardian’s falling circulation – but then neither has anyone else’s investment in new printing equipment stemmed their declines.

Rusbridger and Guardian presses

Alan Rusbridger

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