Back Issues 08.04.05

APRIL 1995

BY JON SLATTERY

Seizing on Tory sleaze

Jonathan Aitken had begun his disastrous crusade against the “cancer
of bent and twisted journalism” by suing The Guardian, which had been
probing his business affairs. Aitken was jailed for perjury after his
case collapsed.

At the other end of the national newspaper market, the News of the
World had run a splash on a three-in-a-bed romp involving Tory MP
Richard Spring, who subsequently resigned his post as a Parliamentary
Private Secretary.

The NoW came under attack from sections of the
media for allegedly entrapping Spring. NoW editor Piers Morgan was
having none of it.

“We are seeing double-edged hypocrisy from the
broadsheets filling their boots with the salacious details of our
story,” he protested. “And then saying how awful it was we ran the
story in the first place.”

BBC accused of bias

Aitken was also on the warpath against the BBC, accusing it of left wing bias.

Aitken had singled out John Humphrys for criticism after the Today
presenter had acted as chairman at an education rally where a
Conservative representative was not present. He described Humphrys’
interview technique as “like a partisan pugilist trying to strike
blows”. Aitken’s views were at odds with an Independent Television
Commission survey which showed 22 per cent of the public believed then
BBC was biased in favour of the Conservatives, while only 6 per cent
thought it favoured Labour.

Judge accepts Sun editor Higgins ‘made a mistake’

The
Sun had been fined £1,000 for publishing a picture of one of serial
killer Fred West’s children at his funeral. However, Mr Justice Thorpe
cleared Sun editor Stuart Higgins of blame. He said Higgins had been
entitled to rely on the advice of a newspaper lawyer who failed to warn
of the danger posed by publication of the photograph.

Higgins had admitted “we made a mistake” and apologised.

City editor plans new life

Jeff Randall had resigned as city editor of The Sunday Times after
six years, declaring: “I always said I would leave journalism when I
was 40 and, as I now am, that’s what I am doing.”

The lure of journalism proved too much. Randall returned to edit Sunday Business and is now business editor of the BBC.

PCC rules on identifying National Lottery winners

Three newspapers were cleared by the Press Complaints Commission
after they had identified the first big National Lottery winner, who
had netted £17.8m. The PCC ruled that the News of the World, Yorkshire
on Sunday and Sunday Mercury could not be expected to be guardians of
the winner’s anonymity regardless of the circumstances. “Nor would the
press be expected to stay silent if the winners said they wanted
privacy but then went around telling everyone about their
wins,” the PCC said. However, The Sun and the Daily Mirror were
condemned for offering rewards for information helping them to identify
jackpot winners.

Insight team wins two awards

The Insight team at The Sunday Times picked up two British Press
Awards for its “MPs’ cash for questions” inquiry. Newspaper of the year
was the Daily Mail and Gary Jones of the News of the World was named
reporter of the year. Jones said of his triumph: “Working for the NoW,
you expect complaints, not awards. It’s almost like cheating at exams.”

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