Friday, 8 July 2011
Going Down - a newspaper sinks with (almost) all hands
Extraordinary scenes in London this week as one of the most profitable newspapers in Britain has the plug pulled after revelations of a systemic culture of corruption, political skullduggery, police bribery and phone hacking. Now we know how they got all those stories about footballer's fancies and politicians' peccadilloes. The sight of white-faced journalists (with families and mortgages) having to pack their things and leave the office after only two days notice is sobering. Many of them weren't even employed during the crucial period, or were too junior to have been involved.
Unfortunately the captain of the ship and the chief engineer seem to be almost the only members of staff to get a lifeboat. Doesn't seem fair.
The News of the World crash is going to change things. My guess is that it's the end of the line for the extreme power that the media has exercised for the past several decades unchecked. The Prime Minister has already called in the men in dark suits to reform the Press Complaints Commission and we don't yet know how far the reforms will go. When politicians start tinkering with press freedom, one can't help but get a little anxious. But the current situation - where newspapers can operate above the law with owners too powerful to be called to account - is untenable.
I know people who feel so strongly about the Murdoch empire they won't have anything to do with literary events sponsored by them - I was given a very uncomfortable time when I agreed to do a creative writing workshop for the Sky Arts programme recently. I was very torn - but there isn't a lot of employment for authors and you sometimes find yourself at literature festivals with sponsors you don't necessarily approve of. After the revelations of this week, my reply to the invitation might have been different.