Huw L. Hopkins attended the launch of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial and discovered the most important thing to a journalist; the other side of the story.
As journalists to be, we are being taught, or have recently been taught by people with morals. How many tutors you know are ignorant, arrogant, unethical arseholes? Despite what we may say under our breath when assignments are announced, we are quite lucky to be blessed with such good people to teach us in our chosen trade.
As a Masters student at Coventry University, I am particularly lucky to view the critically acclaimed Coventry Conversations, which sees a handful of industry experts each week as speakers and guest lecturers about journalism. This is usually a collection of people who fall under what John Mair calls ‘the old pals act’, journalists whom he has previously worked with across a variety of platforms. The speakers tend to adhere to a similar ethical code and belief as the man who invited them.
This positivity can sometimes be a drawback. My gut instinct would lead me to believe that your tutor or previous tutor, is a professional journalist who has worked for the BBC, or the Independent, perhaps even The Times when it was more Labour focused, and they will no doubt have plenty of experience on a local circuit. They will mostly read the Guardian. Any journalist worth his salt understands how important the liberal leaning national is, and how it upholds the correct morals and objections in society.
Even Paul Connew, former deputy editor of the News of the World said “the Murdoch I used to know and work for, despite the loss of BSkyB, despite the closure of the News of the World, he probably has a begrudging respect for what the Guardian does.”
He spoke at the book launch debate of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial, published by Arima on the 7th February 2012 and edited by John Mair and Richard L. Keeble, another journalist who dabbles in teaching his profession.
The live event held at the Coventry University London Campus saw people from both sides of the journalism food chain heatedly and humorously discuss the phone hacking saga and the Leveson inquiry at length. It also featured the quotable Kevin Marsh, the recovering tabloid hack Richard Peppiatt, the executive director at the Society of Editors and academic Glenda Cooper, without forgetting the illustrious chairman of the debate, Raymond Snoddy.
While its likely nobody will have changed their mind over which direction their moral compass faced, after all John Mair did say “let’s not mince words; we’re not just here to listen to the debate, we’re here to buy books”, it did provide a good platform for a young journalist to see more than just the critical viewpoint of the holier-than-thou journalists in the fight against the red tops.
Before any wannabe hacks begin their studies in journalism, many of them will have heard names like Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch but not all of them will understand their role in the industry, or their personality. Most young journalists will have not met, and may never meet these two controversial figures, we can only learn about them from the Chinese whispers that have circulated, evolved and morphed into something that is arguably worse than they are.
Even when Connew admitted at the book launch that “for about four years, the lunatics were running the asylum”, another former assistant editor at the NoW, Bob Satchwell was quick to defend the red top industry “the tabloid press should be in the last chance saloon”. This is a statement onlookers of the hacking crisis should not forget. The British public are a wide diverse population that will not be forced into reading broadsheets everyday.
The event’s audience boasted names like Phil Harding and the erudite Nicholas Jones who were both asked for their esteemed opinion throughout the debate and this alone was a great reason for young hacks to attend, listen and learn.
These angelic journalists who have rarely put a foot wrong in their respective careers might dismiss anything that Paul Dacre or Rupert Murdoch do as evil or morally bankrupt, and with good reason, but not everybody who work on their side of the industry are.
As a young journalist who is keen to learn all I can about the industry I have chosen to work in, it is important to remember that whilst my lecturers are media professionals, and they have walked the correct path through the ethical long grass, that’s not say that those who have spent time in the oppositions trench don’t have knowledge and wisdom to depart.
To hear what all parties had to say, the debate will be going live as a podcast on the Coventry University website soon, in the meantime there will be a secondary launch party at the University’s main campus in Coventry on Tuesday 14th February.
Image courtesy of Dominik Syka