Private Eye issue 1053: front cover
Nothing highlights the gulf between real investigative journalism and the speculative, scattergun approach than Phonehackgate. The real results have come out of the tireless work by Nick Davies and the team at the Guardian – resignations, arrests and the fall of the Screws – while nothing yet has been achieved by those going after individuals and organisations on little more than a wing and a prayer.
And nowhere is this highlight shown better than in the petulant and hectoring pursuit of the appalling Piers Morgan by Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, at the Guido Fawkes blog. Morgan, as regular visitors to Zelo Street will know, is one of the least liked media people in these parts. But that is no excuse for the approach of Staines and Cole.
Whilst the Guardian built its story through literally years of research, the Fawkes blog has tried to smear Morgan based on inflating quotes from old interviews, hearsay about past stories, and even recycling items from Private Eye. This thin brew was typified by the latest “revelation”, a 2009 edition of Desert Island Discs, where there is a general chat about the “dark arts” between Morgan and Kirsty Young.
The “story” was then fed to the Maily Telegraph, which as I pointed out yesterday, has no cause to occupy the moral high ground, having illegally obtained phone records from the household of David Kelly less than five hours after news of his death was released by the Police. Sadly, not all commentators have hailed this as a game changing discovery, and Morgan is still there at CNN.
Eye 1053, Page 4 (click for larger image)
As to the hearsay strand, this was exemplified by the attempt to cite the Mirror’s scoop of the Sven’n’Ulrika-ka-ka-ka affair as being down to Morgan overseeing hacking at the paper, when in reality the story was gifted to the Mirror as a spoiler, and it was the Screws that had been doing the hacking – hence Ms Jonsson instructing her lawyers to go after the latter (see above).
Eye 1293, Page 9
So what about the material from Private Eye? As can be seen from the image above – the right hand column is the one to watch – the latest issue of the Eye checked out the previous behaviour of the Mirror. The item at the foot of the page, about Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, was then featured by the Fawkes blog the following day, with the “Just Fancy That” item being directly recycled the following Sunday.
And nothing has changed with the latest “revelations” being the Desert Island Discs discussion, and now a diary entry from Morgan which is being hailed at the smoking gun, referring as it does to a voicemail message and the Sven’n’Ulrika story. But this does not admit hacking, and when put alongside the account in Private Eye issue 1053, looks as flat as ever. Time for some proper research, chaps.
[UPDATE August 3: a shout-out, if only by inference, in the latest issue of Private Eye (number 1294), where they tell that Morgan was "pointing his Twitter followers in the direction of a story in Eye 1053". The reference to that issue was not made by Piers Morgan, but by this post. My thanks to the great and good Emmanuel Strobes (for it is he). I'll be looking again at the Sven'n'Ulrika story soon]