Thursday, July 7, 2011

Well, we didn't expect that, did we?

I have to confess, I had an evening of feeling pretty miserable earlier this week about the News of the World scandal. 

As the week's gone on, I have started to feel that when we return home from our time in Dubai, for me it will be to an unrecognisable media landscape with far tighter privacy laws than I'd been used to in the UK thanks to a surge of public opinion behind harsher controls because of the actions of a few hacks. 

Now it turns out that this alleged problem has been nipped in the bud in a brutal way and I was right that it will be a different media landscape but not for the reasons that I thought.  There's already claims that thanks to the demise of the Screws there's going to be a Sunday Sun of some sort in its place so you have to hope that some of the good people that have lost their jobs will be mopped up by that.

And, of course, there's already claims that the evil Murdochs have been planning this move for a while and it's a way of looking like they're doing something decisive to get rid of the bad apples in order to protect their BSkyB plans while saving themselves a bit of cash in the costs of running a newspaper that had to fight harder and dig deeper and dirtier for exclusives to keep the attention of its readership. 

Still, it's a shock.  I did work experience at the NOTW when I was a green little journalism student (I had my hair cut and lowlighted especially for the job, such was the excitement at landing such a placement. Tragic, I know) and did the odd job for them during my time at a news agency.  I also got to the interview stage of their scholarship scheme, losing out to one Robbie Collin, who I believe still works there to this day. How different my life would have been if Robbie, who was frankly far and away more suited and qualified for the job than I ever was, hadn't applied.

The stuff I did for them at a news agency was relatively low key. For example getting the parents of a child sexual abuse victim to agree to support Sarah's Law, which they did without any pressure from me, I might add, because they were prime NOTW readership.

While on work experience, I was sent to get a copy of the birth certificate of a lady featured in a story from a council office, something I would get used to doing later in my career.  I can't even remember who the lady was but even though it's public information that members of the public are perfectly entitled to, the staff there told me there was a two-day wait for it, something which did not impress the then news editor.

"We can't have it now, we'll have to wait until tomorrow," I quavered down the phone at him.  "We're the world's biggest newspaper, we can do anything we want," he said and told me to go and carry on hassling them until they handed it over.  Unfortunately, the "we can do anything we want," attitude, seems to have permeated through to a few members of staff whose actions have been detrimental to the hundreds of others who've never been near a phone hack. 

I've never worked full-time for the Screws but it's been a presence on the fringes for me throughout my career.  I know that it appears at the moment that some staff were, in fact, out of control, but for anyone working in journalism, it's only bad news when any newspaper rolls off the presses for the last time.

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