Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Adam Lee-Potter

GET UPDATES FROM Adam Lee-Potter
 

Apocalypse NOTW

Posted: 10/07/11 23:41

It has been a woeful week to be a hack. And it just got worse. The phone hacking scandal that threatened to engulf us all has sunk the News of the World.

A best-selling newspaper that launched in 1843 closes for good on Sunday. None should delight in its closure. This is a genuine loss, not just for the scores of hard-working, innocent journalists at Wapping who had no part to play in the alleged scandal.

As ever, the monkeys will suffer, not the organ grinder.

Rupert Murdoch - determined as he is to clinch his BSkyB deal - clearly felt he was left with no choice. Advertisers had withdrawn, readers had revolted. But both, I suspect, will come to mourn the flawed giant they have just helped to slay.

No one in their right mind would attempt - or wish - to defend the indefensible. Preying on the grief of bereaved families is - if true - both monstrous and wrong.

But there are important rejoinders.

Firstly, how do we even know about the latest claims? It's because hacks broke the story.

Who continues to report ongoing developments? Hacks.

Who will sift through the emerging evidence and deliver up the facts? Hacks.

Who finds themselves out of a job on Saturday night? That's right. Hacks.

And what of the allegations themselves? If proven, we are talking about perhaps a handful of alleged wrong-doers at one soon-to-be-defunct newspaper.

There are 70,000 journalists in the UK. Even if every News of the World reporter were at fault (which is factually impossible), that represents less than 0.1 per cent of our profession.

Most journalists, including those at the News of the World, are - like most people - decent.

But we have, this week, been vilified and threatened. A man shouted at me in the street yesterday: "You're nothing but a hack."

Even an old friend attempted to distance herself, saying: "Of course, my husband's a proper journalist, he's not a hack." Well, strictly speaking, he's now a social worker. But that's another story.

You know what? I am a hack. And I'm proud to be one.

I've never hacked a phone and I don't know a journalist who has. Yet we've all been branded with the same iron.

I'm proud of my industry and the sharp, funny, hard-working professionals who populate it.

We are not, of course, saints. I have, in my time, been pushy, belligerent, even rude.

But, just as you couldn't do this job if you wouldn't say boo to a goose, so too - if you were only ever brash or cruel - you would be equally hopeless.

You've got to have a heart. No one confides in a cold fish.

As a genre, we are highly-strung, conscientious and driven. You are only ever as good as your last piece of copy.

This week, politicians - and readers - are holding us up to account. And that is as it should be. If you dish it out, you've got to be prepared to take it in return. Good will, ultimately, come from this scandal. Scrutiny is never a bad thing.

There are those who have called for a boycott. Hugh Grant claims, absurdly, that there is no journalism to be found within tabloids. Tell that to the family of Stephen Lawrence, championed by the brave, relentless work of tabloid reporters.

The world would be a poorer - and more dangerous place - without journalists.

In my experience, our stories come - not from electronic trickery - but from a combination of graft and luck.

A couple of years ago, I was on a flight to Inverness. As I sat down with my Telegraph crossword, I recognised a voice in the seat behind me: Nick Clegg.

Blissfully unaware, he spent the next hour and a half going through his supposedly secret shadow cabinet reshuffle.

So instead of filling in the crossword, I took down shorthand notes in the squares.

One across read: "My environment spokesman is a fucking twat".

A good newspaper is still life's cheapest luxury and one to be cherished. What else costs pennies and fits in your pocket, doesn't need batteries and can entertain, educate and involve?

How this scandal develops and how many other scalps it claims, the truth is this: we will always need journalism and we will always need journalists.

 

Follow Adam Lee-Potter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/adamleepotter