As if the condemnation of the new régime at the Guardian had not been enough of a problem for Kath Viner and her maybe not so merry band last week, the weekend has brought another broadside of severely adverse comment, this time from those who teach journalism at our Universities. Even former chief constable Andy Trotter has called the editorial backing the suppression of Leveson 2 “disappointing”.
Kath Viner, editor, the Guardian
The criticism, and the warning sounded, by those in academia bears repetition in full. It restates the verdict of betrayal stressed by this blog last week. It carries the names of those not just in the redbrick and latter-day Universities, but those in London and Cambridge. The letter is backed by 21 signatories. Here’s the text.
“Your editorial (The Guardian’s view on Leveson 2: look ahead, not behind, 2 March) constitutes a fourfold betrayal. It betrays your own journalists, who, with Nick Davies leading the way, laboured bravely and brilliantly to expose criminality and wrongdoing at national newspapers. It betrays the blameless and often vulnerable victims of those crimes, who were promised a full public inquiry, including the all-important Leveson part 2, but whom your editorial does not deem worthy of mention. And it betrays the public at large, including your readers, who, as Brian Leveson has pointed out, are entitled to know the true scale of what went wrong, how newspaper managements allowed it to happen and what lessons can be learned” asserts the opening paragraph.
And there is more. “In endorsing the cancellation of Leveson 2 you place yourself on the side not only of this Conservative government but also of its close allies, the newspapers that perpetrated the crimes and the wrongdoing. And what is your rationale? That we should look forward rather than back - a logic that negates all accountability and one that is always favoured by the unscrupulous and the unethical”.
The excoriation ends with the damning verdict “This was unworthy of your newspaper’s great traditions of independence, of service to the public and of intellectual rigour. That is the fourth betrayal”. Betrayal. Of the paper’s own journalists, of the victims of criminality carried out by the press and on their behalf, of the public and the paper’s readers, and ultimately of the Guardian’s own history. Betrayal. Four times over.
Moreover, the news for those at Kings Place could yet get much worse, and on three counts. One, rumours are now rife that many Guardian subscribers are not merely considering whether to continue with those subscriptions, but are cancelling them. Two, on a similar subject, an appeal to Guardian Members is highly likely. That is another funding source that the paper will not want to see diminished.
And three, the blowback from academia could have been far worse. One Zelo Street source with some knowledge of the letter that appears this morning commented “academics who teach journalism are very solid on this … the Guardian should be rattled because there are lots more … If it hadn't been a weekend [there] could have [been] double the signatories”. The Guardian’s core constituency. Abandoned.
What gain a newspaper that it obtains an easy ride at the next awards ceremony, but loses its soul? As well as things like readers, loyalty … and money. Just a thought.