Correspondents Report – Reporting from the frontlines of the phone hacking scandal 02/02/2014

dolemanAn interview with yours truly revealing the secrets of the annex – though I should have explained to Barbara that, these less busy days, most of us are allowed up in the main court, but for various acoustic, visual and social reasons, don’t exercise that choice.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: It\’s been a dramatic week at the phone hacking trial in London, beginning with an appearance by actor Jude Law, and ending on Friday with the testimony via video link of his former partner, Sienna Miller.

In between the two stars, a man whose name wasn’t well known until now, Dan Evans, took the stand.

The full radio program

Evans is a former Sunday Mirror and News of the World journalist who has confessed to phone hacking and is now a key witness for the prosecution.

For those following the trial the emotion of the week has been a welcome break from the tedium of the detailed analysis of phone schedules and police transcripts that\’s characterized many of the sitting days up until now.

Here\’s our Europe correspondent Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: If you harbour any illusions that journalism is a glamorous trade, you\’d soon be relieved of them if you took a peek into Court 19 at the Old Bailey.

The room currently serves as the media annex for the phone hacking trial.

It\’s here that many of the reporters sit day in day out, following the action on a huge screen at the front of the room.

You still need a special pass to get in here, but it\’s not the golden one that gets you onto the media benches in the actual court room.

Court 19 has the appearance of a dungeon; the air is thick, the lighting terrible, the acoustics appalling.

Its inhabitants stare intently at the screen, they constantly check quotes with one another, and they snort, guffaw, and gasp at particularly exciting bits of evidence

But let\’s hear it described from someone to whom it has become something of a second home.

PETER JUKES: Well it\’s a bit like being in prison sometimes. I mean, it\’s a slightly foetid atmosphere; air conditioning seems not to work, and there\’s quite a lot of people in there. It gets quite swampy in there.

BARBARA MILLER: Peter Jukes is a sometimes journalist, writer, dramatist, and now master tweeter from the phone hacking trial.

PETER JUKES: So the atmosphere is restless, bored, sometimes like naughty schoolboys. But then you have these very dramatic moments and the atmosphere goes quiet and everybody looks at each other shocked. It\’s a weird mixture of excitement and boredom.

BARBARA MILLER: Peter Jukes\’ stream of tweets in the opening days of the trial back in October became so popular that he came around to the idea of staying on and tweeting for the duration.

The only trouble was that he didn\’t have much money, so he turned to crowdfunding, first to see him through until Christmas, and now a second time to try and see it out until the end of this marathon trial.

PETER JUKES: The opening was very exciting, the first three days of the opening, because the prosecution laid out its case and its major allegations unfolded then. And since then, it gets ground down in call data evidence and filing cabinets and lots of little details – triangulating mobile phones and things like that. And you do forget how momentous this trial is. I mean all the defendant\’s, all the charges, presumption of innocence, but it\’s so rare to have such senior people on trial. That\’s the difference from most trials at the Old Bailey. We have former press spokesman for the prime minister and a senior executive from the biggest media company in the UK.

BARBARA MILLER: It\’s a kind of odd life – you\’ve ended up as this kind of publically funded tweeter from the hacking trial. You said when you first sought money that you were a little bit embarrassed, that you worried it was a case of begging. Have you come to terms with it now?

PETER JUKES: It was a big hurdle to get over. I mean I really was broke. I suppose – no, I think I\’m glad I got over that in that I think people connect with that need and that little personal story, and then they like just being part of a success. There\’s a little narrative in itself; they just want to get you over that hurdle.

And whether rightly or wrongly – and I think wrongly in lots of examples – but people don\’t trust the media to tell a story of the media here. And so they like the fact – I think that\’s why I\’ve been funded a second time – that I\’m their employee, that they can – I\’m not referring to an editor; I\’m not looking for a job with a big media company. From their point of view, they\’re guaranteed my independence covering the media.

BARBARA MILLER: And so this extraordinary and complex trial will continue through the European winter, into the spring.

Journalists like this one will dip in and out, the demands of the job too great to devote weeks and months to following its every detail.

I don\’t know how much wiser we\’ll be at the end of it about who knew what and when, about what\’s been referred to in court as the \’dark art\’ of voicemail interception.

But I know that it matters, and so Court 19 – this dingy ugly room with its strange but compelling sense of camaraderie – has a vital role to play in the understanding of a scandal which so drastically changed the media landscape of this city.

This is Barbara Miller in London for Correspondents Report.

via Correspondents Report – Reporting from the frontlines of the phone hacking scandal 02/02/2014.

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