Full disclosure: I have been a subscriber to Private Eye magazine for over 30 years, and a regular reader before then, back to the time in the mid-70s when there was little else to open the door on the goings-on of the Fourth Estate, the political class, and others in positions of power and influence. So I was most interested to hear what Ian Hislop would have to say at the Leveson Inquiry today.
He recognised the picture of agenda driven news as painted by former Daily Star freelance Richard Peppiatt, which is important as this confirmation comes from someone who has been an observer and consumer of the product of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet for over 25 years. It underscores what this blog has said since its launch.
But where Hislop did not sound totally authentic, and Leveson did not agree with him, was over redress for wrongdoing by papers – and magazines like his. Although confirming that the Eye has not lost many libel actions in recent years – unlike the state of play in the last days of Richard Ingrams – he came back to the idea that things tend to “end up in court”.
Moreover, the Eye is not a subscriber to the Press Complaints Council (PCC), and so – even given the PCC’s less than stellar record – there is no recourse to complainants other than to ask Hislop and his staff nicely. One can argue that many of the Eye’s targets are other journalists, politicians, and others with the means to sue, but not all. He did not seem concerned about this.
For me, though, the most significant part of Hislop’s testimony was when matters ventured into the realm of the blogosphere, of which he was bluntly dismissive. There are two thoughts arising from this: first, that the best-read blogs cannot by themselves get stories “out there” without the participation of the otherwise disliked MSM, which I’ve pointed up many times.
But the second thought is that Hislop is dismissing the hard work that many within the blogosphere undertake: not everyone there makes up stories on the fly, without research, or from one hearsay source (pace Paul Staines and Henry Cole). And the Eye has been more than happy to use bloggers’ work, as confirmed by the experience of Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads (see HERE and HERE).
And that’s a pity, because much of Hislop’s other evidence – on the way that Murdoch has influenced politicians, and thus given his papers the confidence to more or less please themselves, for instance – was worthwhile, as was the revelation of how some of the Eye’s targets have resorted to law in order to try and silence the magazine. This, and much else, was perceptively delivered.
But he would be best served not to write off the blogosphere just yet.