When David Cameron announced, in July last year, that there would be an investigation into media ethics and phone hacking you just knew it would not take long before certain circles began labelling the British tabloids as "The Scum Of All Newspapers."
Publications such as the Guardian have taken great delight in condemning the indefensible actions of some News International hacks, but, in many ways, have failed miserably in their own coverage. The Guardian have had to publish numerous (approximately 40) corrections and retractions due to false reporting and inaccuracies. This must surely be the irony of all ironies.
Kelvin Mackenzie, during his appearance at the Leveson inquiry, brought up the topic and asserted that had the Sun been so sloppy in its reporting it "would have come very very close to being shut down". He had a point. It is somewhat laughable that the broadsheets, so strong in their criticisms of the tabloid press, have proven just as adept at misreporting and fallacy. In the broadsheets efforts to enlighten us of the widespread unethical practices of the tabloids, they themselves have fallen into the trap of printing hearsay and tittle-tattle. Take the as-of-yet unscrutinised example of Charlotte Church's Leveson appearance.
The Guardian printed a piece earlier this month that stated the following: "Charlotte Church was 15-years-old when Britain's best-read daily newspaper began a public countdown to the day on which she could be legally f***ed."
They were, of course, taking Church's Leveson evidence as gospel; with no apparent effort being made to verify her claims. Thankfully, some of us did. A quick look back at newspaper reports from around the time show that there was indeed a 'countdown clock'; but it had nothing to do with any News International publication. In fact, it appears that tabloid newspapers like the Daily Mirror were ardently campaigning against the "sick" and "twisted" internet countdown.
Furthermore, despite claiming that the clock made her feel "horrible" and "uncomfortable" during recent interviewing, when questioned by Heat magazine in 2002 about her feelings towards the clock's existence she said, "I laughed my socks off". It would appear that Church is just one of a long line of bandwagon jumpers. As the testimonies filter through, the broadsheets are gleefully latching onto each and every denouncement - nothing more than gossip - as though it were fact. As the old proverb goes, "a lie will go round the world while the truth is pulling its boots on."
We were all told that approximately 6,000 individuals were the victims of phone hacking as news of News International's illegal activity first reared its ugly head. However, as often happens once the truth pulls its boots on, the facts are unveiled. It now stands that approximately 800 people were potentially hacked; yet even this figure could fall. The problem is that for every 10 people who heard the 6,000 figure, maybe only five will learn of the downgrading. The same can be said of Hugh Grant's unproven evidence suggesting that his flat was burgled by tabloid reporters. There is no proof that Grant's claims are accurate, but that does not matter, for the myth has already spread.
Another Guardian retraction concerned their false report that the Sun had hacked into Gordon Brown's son's medical records. Once again, a myth that has now planted itself firmly in the minds of the already anti-tabloid general public. The only retraction that did receive widespread coverage was that News of the World did not delete any of Milly Dowler's voicemail messages. The Guardian got it horribly wrong; splashing all over their front page back in July: "Paper deleted missing schoolgirl's voicemails, giving family false hope". Are these broadsheet lies any better than the unethical journalism carried out by Murdoch's publications?
The broadsheets supposedly represent grown-up journalism where fact-checking, ethics and morality is placed ahead of mass sales and crowd pleasing. Sadly, in an ongoing attempt to humiliate the tabloids, the broadsheets have embarrassed themselves by perpetrating shoddy, below-par journalism that makes the reports of the Daily Star seem worthy of an Orwell Prize. Whilst the Guardian and others would argue that they are trying to clean up journalism through shining a light on the unforgivable wrong doing conducted by redtops, they fail to grasp how their own poor performance of late will merely clarify in the minds of media critics that the whole industry is prone to mistakes and gross misjudgement.
Enough people are currently castigating News International for its despicable acts of criminality, but now it is time for serious scrutiny of the way in which the broadsheets and 'respectable' media are pouncing on the tabloid press - making them a scapegoat - in what I consider to be a measured effort to rid the world of what they consider to be lesser media outlets. We must not remain silent over this travesty through fear of siding with the common enemy.
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