Something happened in the reporting around the fringes of Phonehackgate this week that was not universally relayed by all of the Fourth Estate, and that was the story, provided to all by Reuters, of two supposedly anonymous Sun hacks attempting to take their own lives, ostensibly as a result of arrest and possibly prosecution, and the belief that they were being abandoned to their fate by management.
The anonymity did not last any longer than it took for Popbitch to perform the usual digging around, to reveal the – unconfirmed, naturally – names of chief reporter John Kay, “talked down from Blackfriars’ Bridge”, and Virginia Wheeler, supposedly recovering “in the Priory”. The episode was not reported by either the Guardian – usually hot on all things Murdoch – nor by the Sun itself.
Only one paper gave the news its own headline, that being the Mail, which left the two hacks concerned as “not ... publicly named”. The mood at Murdoch Towers in Wapping is reported as being deeply unhappy with what is seen as management throwing their staff under the proverbial bus for behaviour that was, for a number of years, more or less openly encouraged.
There is also a mention in the Independent, which also told that both had been recently arrested, thereby narrowing down the list of possible candidates significantly. And that makes an interesting contrast: while Kay was arrested back on February 11, Ms Wheeler’s appointment with the Met’s finest did not happen until the end of the month, and by appointment.
What to make of the distinct lack of reporting? The first thought is that what Nick Davies described as “Dog Doesn’t Eat Dog” – that papers don’t report on each others’ misfortunes – has come into play, but the Mail has in the past been the strictest adherent to this code, yet has been one of the few to relay the news to its readers. But there may be a more obvious reason.
The Sun has previous when it comes to putting its targets under more than the occasional bit of stress: the paper decided in January to withdraw its Supreme Court appeal against a Contempt of Court fine over the Christopher Jefferies case, the only mitigating factor being that the Mirror’s behaviour was deemed yet worse. And they went after Robert Murat, along with the rest of the tabloid pack.
Moreover, right now the Sun is running a campaign called “Beat the Cheat”, along with a suitably trailed hotline, to supposedly identify those who are benefit “scroungers” and “fiddlers”. A more stressful experience for the disabled – already on the wrong end of the malicious Motability “free cars” publicity – is hard to imagine. The Sun has no problem going after those without access to counselling.
That’s no help to John Kay or Virginia Wheeler. But it should come as no surprise.