Ben’s World: Repelled? Then don’t read the tawdry tabloids

Earlier this year, when the phone hacking scandal was just starting to take off, a middle-aged gentleman poked his head around the door of our reception.

“Got any jobs going hacking people’s phones?” he asked.

Someone laughed at his joke. It was only him, but that still seemed like a bit of a triumph.

If you haven’t been following the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking by some national papers, then I really, strongly recommend that you read up on it. Here have been some of the highlights:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

l Paul McMullan, former deputy features editor on the News of The World Deputy, told the enquiry he “felt slightly proud I had written something that created a riot and got a paediatrician beaten up.”

Yes, do you remember when a paediatrician (a children’s doctor) was confused with a paedophile (someone who is sexually attracted to children) by a baying mob (people who are hopefully too stupid to have children) and then battered?

Paul McMullan was proud of playing his part in that.

l Christopher Jefferies was an ordinary bloke who was briefly questioned by the police, and then released without charge, after the murder of Joanna Yeates last year.

Here is what some of the newspapers had to say about him.

The Sun called him ‘wierd,’ ‘lewd,’ ‘posh,’ and ‘creepy’.

The Daily Mirror titled an article ‘Jo suspect is Peeping Tom.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This is a man who was never charged, let alone convicted, in connection with that case.

But these stories were spread all over newspapers read by millions of people, who would mostly have drawn the wrong conclusion.

l Last year The Daily Star ran a story with the headline ‘Muslim-only public loos.’

This turned out to be entirely made up.

So if you’re looking for the sort of story that gives every closet racist and conspiracy theorist all the ammunition they could want, the Daily Star is the newspaper for you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All of which is pretty depressing for someone who takes a lot of pride in being a journalist.

I grew up always wanting to be a journo. It’s a great job. Here at the T&C we don’t always get everything right, but we always try our very hardest to do so.

We are part of the community. When things are going well we want to tell the word about it, and when things are going less well it’s up to us to publicise that, too.

It isn’t our job to make people’s lives a misery.

Even if they have been accused of killing another person that just isn’t right – and let’s not forget that poor Christopher Jefferies was only helping police with their enquiries when the hacks added two and two and got 2,222, if not an even higher figure.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It isn’t our job to celebrate because we’ve played our part in getting a children’s doctor beaten up and isn’t our job to help every idiot out there think his hidden racist beliefs are true.

But this isn’t about a few isolated journalists. This is about power, and what people will do with it.

Big media companies have all the power they want – politicians are too scared to confront them, media watchdogs haven’t got the power to take them on, and journalists who won’t do as they’re told can only too easily be replaced.

Only one group of people can really make any difference.

So the next time that you pick up a newspaper and think a story does nothing but add misery to the world for no good reason, think twice about whether that’s the newspaper you want to read.

If it’s this paper, and I hope it won’t be, at least challenge us to justify what we’ve done.

Related topics: