With the inquiry into phone hacking and the public baiting for blood from the culture, media and sports committee continuing, it’s easy to forget that there are newspapers out there who haven’t stopped at nothing for a story. As part of the all encompassing organisation known as ‘the media’, however they find themselves tarred with the same brush.
The title of today’s Society of Editors conference - “Magna Carta II – a new media charter” – said it all about fears within the press that reaction to the phone hacking scandal will lead to a loss of press freedom. In his keynote address justice secretary Ken Clarke called it “a certain unsubtlety”.
Clarke consistently called for balance, telling the conference “not to underestimate the extent of the crisis of confidence which we’re going through at the moment, but for heaven’s sake stop getting paranoid about it because there are very few people in this country that are intending to threaten the freedom of the British press”.
“We certainly don’t want the imposition of ludicrous quangos or statutory controls or anything of the kind”.
A knee jerk reaction, he says, is not the way forward. Instead a balanced response, which protects the freedom of the press is needed.
“It was investigative journalists who exposed the very scandal which lay at the heart of journalism”, he said, defending the journalistic profession.
He used the plight of MPs after the expenses scandal to warn of the failure of self regulation. “They’re living with IPSA now”, he said.
As entertaining as it might be to see the Murdoch clan getting hit with pies, throwing punches, or being accused of running a mafia organization, we must remember that there are media organizations and sections of the press out there who do report responsibly.
To lose press freedom would be unthinkable, although as Clarke said, the chances of press freedom being threatened are unlikely. However, if they want to avoid a fate similar to that of MPs they need take a greater hand in self regulation. It’s not the regulation they have to fear. It’s the regulators themselves.