In 2009, investigative journalist Nick Davies published a real bombshell of a book. Meticulously and painstakingly researched (Davies – in some ways literally – cannot afford to get his facts wrong), Flat Earth News proves that everything you may have feared about the state of UK journalism was true as seen through the clear prism of Davies’ renowned integrity.
A vast percentage of so-called news is simply reheated news agency spin or PR puffery. Journalists, even the good ones, don’t have the time or resources to research and check their (or the PR agencies’) ‘facts’ before publishing. I was stunned to find out that the journalists on the BBC website have a certain amount of time to verify a story before it gets posted and that verification time is in seconds…
Let’s not forget tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of a significant share of the British press including the countless other global titles and companies he has wound his tentacles around. The broadly accepted fact (hmmm) is that despite being the owner, he doesn’t push a political agenda through his titles. Really? (‘It was the Sun wot won it’ indeed, a famous post-election headline in 1992 which said goodbye to Neil Kinnock’s career as a Labour leader). Murdoch’s more of a voracious predator , a creature with a limitless appetite for power and business dominance and a staggering indifference to those crushed under his wheels.
“Over and over again, you allow the hard logic of the market to usurp human choice and so you create a society with the morality of an anthill, where all human life is reduced to labour, all freedom flattened by the demand for efficient production, all weakness punished, all violence justified, where schools and hospitals are cut while crime and alienation flourish and millions are thrown into the deep pit of unemployment…”
Nick Davies, Hack Attack
The Times, to its faint credit, went against Murdoch once the hacking scandal reached its zenith but it took far too long for the main players to come to their senses. For years the Guardian had published stories, tiny leaves of the rainforest, which were dismissed and ridiculed by all those who had their own good (but morally indefensible) reasons to keep the hacking scandal below the public radar. The police, the government and the press all seemed to conspire to keep this massive story under wraps. Once Davies and those that joined his cause pulled hard enough, The News of the World was demolished, in effect a clean sweep of the dirtiest of tricks convincing not one of the body politic with an enquiring mind that the march of power had been stilled. Once that small cancerous part of Murdoch’s empire had been cut from the monster, the monster marched on. Scalps were taken along the way, a red headed one curiously absent from the roll call of the downfallen. It pays in more ways than one being the king’s favourite. One wonders if Rebekah Brooks (editor of The News of the World while hacking was rife) had been born Robert Brooks, would she would have enjoyed such generous support from a man who put her welfare above all else in the hacking scandal? After being cleared of all charges (how was that even conceivable?) Murdoch gave her carte blanch to travel the world on his dime… For another point of view on this shameful affair, I’ll point you to an excerpt from the Now Show in which John Finnemore (creator, writer and performer of BBC Radio 4’s wonderful sitcom Cabin Pressure) stokes up some grass roots support. It’s well worth a listen… You don’t get to hear it but live audiences at the time gave this rallying cry a full minute of enthusiastic applause.
In the news recently are stories of more hacking victims being paid compensation so now’s the perfect time to read the entire story. Nick Davies’ superb (and unusually thrilling) Hack Attack is a must read for anyone remotely interested in this little island’s press industry. In the best sense of comparison, it reads like Woodward and Bernstein’s All The President’s Men, a slow burn of revelation, setback, small victories and then a tidal wave of routing the guilty and exoneration of those who were brave enough to put their foot in Murdoch’s door while he and his underlings attempted to stop putting theirs in their own mouths. And no, it makes no difference that we all know the ending… The book comes hugely recommended.