Sunday, 30 May 2010

A little more Laws plus Triesman

I might have added - should have added - that the damage to individuals is only half the story. The Mail on Sunday's piece of 'investigative journalism' on Triesman, rigging up some venomous pretend-friend to get him to say something newsworthy, and the Telegraph's story on David Laws, both damage more than their subjects. The Mail on Sunday fixes a 'sting' that endangers a project everyone has been working on for years, and on which a good many jobs depend, not to mention the people who want to see the World Cup here. Does the Mail on Sunday care? Clearly not. Therefore it should clearly be ignored when it claims to speak on any national interest.

As for the Telegraph story, Laws was doing a vital national job, apparently very well. So now he is not doing it. That is the Telegraph's sense of priorities. Let no-one take the Telegraph too seriously then when it bleats about national interest.

I note both papers are of the Tory press, that does its best to rant about nation and patriotism and values.

I am not suggesting that there should be no penalty for important people doing important jobs when they do wrong. I only argue that it should be proportionate. Face whatever sanction seems appropriate in the circumstances. Proper investigative reporting is vital, but both these cases are trivial, entirely disproportional to their actual importance.

But then short-term thinking is notoriously a British disease anyway, and the press has the shortest of short-term interest in anything.


Kathleen Jones said...

The problem for me has always been how to balance freedom of the press with rampant abuse of the power it confers. Privacy laws? Better defined, tighter public interest clauses? Difficult. We've already got the most draconian libel laws anywhere. But, as someone more famous than me once said: 'Something must be done'. A democracy shouldn't be controlled by the media.

George S said...

I do agree, Kathleen - I heard someone say that if Triesman's lawyers had acted more quickly they could have prevented publication on the grounds of inadequate public interest.

Maybe the answer is for the public to be more sceptical about such stories so the paper cannot sell more copies by printing them.

However, I don't imagine that the ethos of newspaper journalism is unrelated to the ethos of television or radio journalism and entertainment, or indeed, state use of CCTV etc. Maybe the public simply gets the press (and laws) it demonstrably wants, rather than says it wants. If so, too bad for what it gets as a result.

My preference would be to go down the ethos- rather than the legal route...