Why does the newspaper that has consistently backed the winning prime minister for the last 36 years sound so panicked?
Last weekend Britain’s best selling paper, the Sun, finally told the truth about the British general election. Urging its favoured candidate for prime minister to steel himself against adverse polls and a torrid week of coverage, the Sun Says column retweeted by the tabloid’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn, told David Cameron to ignore “left wing social media.”
Sun editorials regularly rail against ‘Twitter mobs’ while its new SunNation blog, taken out of the company paywall, seems to have failed to pick up any online momentum, and gets a sad handful of retweets, mainly from fellow employees of News UK
But why does the newspaper which has consistently backed the winning prime minister for the last 36 years sound so panicked? Is it the threat of a tougher complaints system under a threatened Miliband government? Or something deeper in the system of the modern media?
There’s some contradictory evidence from the Leveson Inquiry and the Phone Hacking trial about just how much Rupert Murdoch was interested in his best selling Sunday Tabloid. Before Lord Justice Leveson in 2012, the chair of News Corp said the Sun was his major UK interest and he rarely concerned himself with NOTW, but earlier this year both Brooks and Coulson at the phone hacking trial gave evidence of weekly calls from Murdoch, throughout their editorships.
This snippet, from Piers Morgan‘s autobiography, shows that – at least on one occasion – Murdoch knew more than his editors. Concerned about a Princess Diana ‘phone pest’ story (allegedly sourced illegally through a police file) the then editor is reassured first by his news editor, Alex Marunchak, and then by Murdoch himself, that the story would stand up. Continue reading →
Over the past two years my “regular contributor” has written on all things Leveson, phone hacking, and police corruption, with much of their work gathered on the Brown Moses Blog – Hackgate Files. Now they’ve come to Bellingcat to continue their work, beginning with a look at Mazher Mahmood (aka the Fake Sheikh) and the Metropolitan Police.
Miskiw, Mahmood and the MET
In January 2004, a journalist from the News of the World (NOTW) was interviewed by MET police on suspected criminality resulting from Operation Motorman. It was GREG MISKIW.
Yet just a few weeks later, MET police were enthusiastically commiting to a £1million+ collaboration with the NOTW on a newspaper ‘sting’. This time the journalist was MISKIW’S investigations desk close colleague – MAZHER MAHMOOD.
In the aftermath of the phone hacking trial, the Guardian’s Nick Davies, who played a pivotal in exposing the News of the World scandal, still had unanswered questions. This time, not for News UK (formerly News International), but the Metropolitan Police who having sat on the evidence in 2006 and refused to reopen it in 2009 finally managed do their job in 2011. Davies reported:
“Lord Justice Leveson concluded that the Caryatid team had made mistakes in handling victims of the hacking and had failed to follow leads to other perpetrators but had acted in good faith, primarily because officers had to deal with far more serious crime involving terrorist plots to commit mass murder. That conclusion is clearly well-founded. Specifically, there is no evidence that any Caryatid officer showed any fear or favour towards News International.”
He went on “however, the objective fact is that Scotland Yard’s conduct enabled News International’s coverup to succeed. Here, there are two key questions. Why was the hacking inquiry not passed to another squad to be completed? And was that decision in any way influenced by a desire to placate Murdoch’s company?”
Peter Jukes was named Britain’s best social media journalist for his live-tweeting of the trial of Rebekah Brooks every single day for eight months. 12,000 followers and half a million words later, the live-twitterer and author has now put his mind to finding out what the former tabloid queen will do next. Fulltime motherhood to her two-year-old daughter Scarlett and a senior position in News Corp Australia are among the possibilities.
In March, midway through her set-piece cross-examination at the phone-hacking trial, as she explained her campaigning style of journalism, Rebekah Brooks said: “When we did those campaigns we had to be above the law . . . I mean within the law.
”It was an uncharacteristic slip, perhaps the only one in three weeks in the witness box at the Old Bailey in London. Although she sometimes looked pale or tired, the former tabloid editor had an answer for every question. In a structured timeline delivered by her counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, the jury was given almost a week-long summary of her career, from secretary to features writer, all the way up to the top of the most powerful publisher in British newspapers.
Full disclosure was the tone. Brooks never closed down under pressure, only opened up: about the “car crash” of her love life; about the unnecessarily cruel front pages she had published about the boxer Frank Bruno or the former Labour MP Clare Short; about her professional oversights, such as missing the scoop on MPs’ expenses. Talking of the “not-so-nice side of the business”, she even gently joshed Mr Justice Saunders about a “kiss and tell” about a high court judge….
Every morning for the past seven months, TV drama screenwriter, author, and freelance journalist Peter Jukes has been waking up at 8am, checking his iPad and keyboard are charged, walking 15 minutes from his flat to the Old Bailey, logging on to Twitter, and live-tweeting everything he’s allowed to report from the phonehacking trial. Continue reading →
Below is a reprint of my article for Independent Australia which appeared today, links and video courtesy of them.
AT THE BEGINNING of the phone hacking trial in London, which began nearly four months ago, the judge, Justice Saunders, said:
“… not only are the defendants on trial, but British justice is on trial.”
He could have added, given the nature of the charges and the defendants, so too is the British media, which is second only to Australia in the English speaking world in its heavily concentrated ownership.
Now that we’re at a half time mark at the central criminal court of the Old Bailey, with the prosecution having made its case, and the seven defendants – including former CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, Rebekah Brooks, and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former press supremo, Andy Coulson – about to mount their defence, how has the legal struggle in court been reflected in the aerial warfare of the newsstands, airwaves and internet? Continue reading →
Now that my second crowd funding campaign has ended successfully, I’m fulfilling a promise to share the data from Indiegogo, and publicise (without naming individual contributors) the source of funding from across the world, the most effective social networking platforms and sharing tools. I’m not doing this to sound my own trumpet but because I know there are many people interested in how to raise money for journalism.
Mine was a very specific campaign, with a clear deadline set by the phone hacking trial, and a clear service to be delivered – live tweeting from the court. I suspect it might be harder to fund something less immediately topical and time dependent. On the other hand, most people paid for a service which was not exclusive, and others would be getting for free.