But, as Jon Stewart might have cautioned, two things here: One, Mosley was not the sole donor to Hacked Off, who have therefore continued their campaign, and Two, another challenge to the press was getting into its stride. Worse for the press, it proved true the old adage that, at what seem the worst of times, the opposition rides to your rescue.
After the Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, and suggested that the press had a problem with bigotry, Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray became especially righteous, declaring “It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence”. Evidence? As Zelo Street pointed out at the time, there was all too much evidence when it came to bigotry.
And then something else happened: as the Guardian reported, “More than 160 journalists of colour and the editors of the Guardian, Financial Times and HuffPost have objected to the statement, written by the SoE’s executive director, Ian Murray, which argued that Meghan’s claims that parts of the media were racist were ‘not acceptable’”.
One of those objecting was Jess Brammar of the HuffPost, which goes some way to explaining why those out there on the right are so hell-bent on preventing her being appointed to head the BBC’s News Channel. Murray, after the SoE was faced with a mass boycott of its awards ceremony, resigned. But many in the press still didn’t get it.
All they needed to do when cobbling together the next bout of bigotry was to do as they had done for years - get an LGBT hire to defend attacks like the one on Stephen Gately, have a Jewish name on the by-line of the Mail’s anti-Semitic attack on the memory of Ralph Miliband, and yes, the same paper making sure it didn’t get called for racism over the Stephen Lawrence murder by sending its only black reporter to cover it.
A few trendy lefty Woke types wouldn’t be a problem, not with right-wing placemen like Robbie Gibb on the BBC Board, and indeed Tim Davie as DG, cancelling the Mash Report to appease Tory critics. But, as Press Gazette has conceded, the press establishment has reckoned without the pulling power of Brand Sussex.
PG reported on Friday “More than 100 journalists of colour have accused the Society of Editors of only ‘offering a few crumbs’ to appease those angered by its previous statements on diversity, and in doing so failing to offer ‘moral leadership’”. Few took any notice, until today’s update: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spoken out in support of the journalists calling for better action on diversity from the Society of Editors”.
Oh, hello? Do go on. “Through their Archewell Foundation … the couple said: ‘Archewell is a proud supporter of journalistic diversity and news media organizations that are committed to reporting the truth, uncovering untold stories and giving voice to the voiceless’”. But it is the next part that will make the press establishment nervous.
“We also applaud the work of independent media, nonprofit newsrooms and trusted local news collectives. They demonstrate the deep need for this critical profession to thrive and evolve, particularly in terms of racial equity and representation … we are seeking to bring awareness to a coalition of UK journalists calling for stronger initiatives to combat the underrepresentation, inequity and racial bigotry that still persist in this important industry”.
Worse for the press, their attempts to demonise Haz and Megs have resulted only in strengthening the couple’s fan base, and embroiling those attacking them in a series of lawsuits which the press, whisper it quietly, are losing. Worse still is that one figure from newspapers past who had no problem exposing other papers’ illegal acts has, as some media equivalent of George Smiley, been called back to the editor’s chair.
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who, with Nick Davies, prised open the can of worms that was phone hacking, has just been appointed editor of Prospect magazine. He is already speaking in terms of serious and trustworthy debate. This, in turn, will rile the press establishment - because what they produce usually fails on both counts.
Press reform campaigners washed up and soon to go bust? On the contrary: there has never been a better time to dissent from the status quo of a handful of offshore billionaires and their gofers and hangers-on than the present. Especially with so much of those billionaires’ resource being thrown at defending the developing shambles that is Brexit, and the ineptitude of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
The old media dinosaurs have not yet left the stage. But you can now see it from there.
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