If the activities of Mail editor Paul Dacre are reported in his own paper, it’s a near certainty that this is what the legendarily foul mouthed supremo wants the masses to hear. So today’s report, “A badge of good journalism: we need ‘kite mark’ for press standards, Mail editor tells Leveson”, will have been ordered by the man himself. So what are we to make of the proposal?
At the outset, it should be remembered that the Mail definition of “good journalism” is not one that many of the public would recognise: the paper has form when it comes to selective and agenda driven copy, and anyone in any doubt should read Mail Aggression, Chapter 10 of Nick Davies’ excellent Flat Earth News, which shows just what Dacre means by “campaigning journalism”.
Moreover, Dacre’s proposals do not address the Mail’s record – also described by Davies – of publishing libellous material and only settling with the claimant (maybe that should read “target” or “victim”) after first ignoring their requests for correction, then publishing yet more knocking copy, and ignoring them again, before finally giving in, sometimes at the door of the court.
What the Vagina Monologue is proposing is that just one body will be responsible for issuing Press Cards. But this would cover newspapers and freelance agencies only, so the entire blogosphere would slip through the net. So Dacre is effectively proposing making Government briefings, press conferences and an unspecified number of other events into some kind of closed shop.
And to that I call bullshit: with the pressure on newsrooms, and the decline in regional and local news coverage, bloggers and other “citizen journalists” are needed more than ever. Also, the idea that hacks could get “struck off” is one likely to provoke hollow laughter, given the kind of recent behaviour of some of Dacre’s finest, as touched upon at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday afternoon.
Dacre suggests that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) should be “reinvigorated and strengthened”, but does not address its abject failure over Phonehackgate, when it sided with Rupe’s flagrantly dishonest troops against the Guardian (which had the right story), or its toothlessness over the Mail’s hatchet job on the memory of Stephen Gately.
Bloggers might well choose – given the opportunity (hint) – to sign up to a set of guidelines similar to those being suggested. Heaven knows, there are plenty in the blogosphere whose “ethical and proper” standards would knock spots off the lamentable hackery of the Mail, and its equally lamentable and woefully un-researched punditry.
So how about it, Mr Dacre? Or would that be an admission too far for you?