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The Week That Was: Leveson

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It's not every week that you find yourself part of the news you're usually reporting, but on Wednesday, rather than watching the Leveson Inquiry, I was in front of it instead.
Not, you'll be relieved to hear that there was any of the high drama of Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre's appearance (and re-appearance two days later), but instead a chance for HuffPost UK to inform the inquiry about how we practice, the world of blogging and a few ideas about how press regulation could be better implemented in the future.

Leveson (the inquiry, not the man) is one of those strange soap operas: an almost perfect concoction of sombre celebrities, humble and not-so-humble newspaper editors, criminal action and, at its very heart, an investigation that could yet change the face of the media landscape.

When you discover, as I did from the extremely well-informed and eloquent witnesses that appeared before me on Wednesday, that two in 10 members of the British public don't trust journalists, it's clear something needs to be done and needs to be done soon. However, I believe we're also in real danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The press needs protecting almost as much as the public to ensure it can continue to uncover stories in the public interest. Lest we ever forget, if it weren't for the Guardian's investigation, the phone hacking scandal may never have come to light.

With 184 witnesses having already been called in front of Lord Justice Brian Leveson, the first phase of the inquiry is now officially at an end, but while Leveson and his team take time to reflect, there are plenty out there keen to have matters resolved sooner rather than later. Lord Hunt - the chair of the much criticised Press Complaints Commission - has been one of the most vocal on the matter.

His alternative to statutory regulation? A contractual regulator of the press, with rolling five-year contracts for its members and three different arms to deal with complaints, enforcing standards and mediating disputes.

The Press Gazette has also taken the opportunity to publish its own suggestion, under the title 'Journalism Manifesto', which is simple and to the point. A pledge to tell the truth; no more favour to special interests; a new Press Standards Council; fair play on work experience; and a ban on copy approval.

Whether Hunt or the Press Gazette's suggestions fall in line with Leveson's final recommendations remains to be seen. There is now a pause in proceedings, before the inquiry sits for its second phase on 27 February - the media's relationship with the police is next up for scrutiny.

With five senior journalists from the Sun having been arrested in the past 24 hours as part of Operation Elveden, which is investigating corruption and illegal payments made to police, it looks like Scotland Yard and News Corp will have plenty to discuss when the inquiry recommences.

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