Banks' Notes 15.12.05

AN INKY-FINGERED colleague, hearing of my intention to write this
column, warned that I could be entering “a career cul-de-sac”. Indeed,
as I write these words I am aware that you might never read them. Let
me explain. The greatest test of the honesty and integrity of any
publication or broadcaster centres on the manner in which it reports or
comments on matters that might affect its own existence.

However
painful an issue, no matter the perceived injustice of the judgment of
others, the facts of an issue – once impartially established – must be
fairly and honestly reported.

Reaction from both within and without the organisation must be allowed reasonable rein.

It
could be argued that I myself failed this test on at least one
occasion: when I edited the Daily Mirror shortly after Maxwell’s death,
the great investigative reporter Paul Foot presented a page which
castigated David Montgomery’s new management and accused both me and
the board of directors of destroying a mighty newspaper company through
a brutal reduction in staff.

I refused to publish the column,
arguing that the facts contained in the article were not new, that it
was unintelligible and uninteresting to the great majority of Mirror
readers and that I required a briefer and more balanced view. Footy
refused to reconsider. As a result, we parted company (see above),
although not on bitter terms.

In more recent times, the BBC
performed an enormous public service under great pressure – even at the
cost of the careers of its chairman and director general – in reporting
the findings of the Hutton Inquiry. The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs
appear to have fairly and properly (not to say zealously) covered the
apparent demise of their former proprietor, Lord Black, although it
might be argued that the further blackening of Conrad hardly damaged
his successors.

Now Press Gazette, the Daily Mirror, their
editors and executives past and present (not to mention your
columnist-in-a-cul-de-sac!) find themselves in an uncomfortable corner
following the result of the City Slickers case (details of which, I
hope, will be found elsewhere in PG).

Former editor of the Mirror
and now co-proprietor of Press Gazette, Piers Morgan, was cleared by an
inquiry of any involvement in the share tipsters’ shenanigans, and no
charge was brought against him.

Allegations and references made
during James Hipwell’s trial to Morgan’s relationship to the affair may
or may not bear further investigation.

Indeed, Morgan may feel
that, either today or at some future point, he wishes to put the record
straight once and for all. As the Glovers and Greenslades of the world
of media punditry have pointed out, there are questions which seem
unnervingly unanswered. But for now I am more concerned with the
integrity and openness of this important organ of journalism. The
appearance in largely undamaged form of this column (the subs will
always have a hack at it!) will be, if you like, a test of decency.

And
as for my “career cul-de-sac”, I’m too old and knackered to worry about
three-point turns at this stage. Press Gazette disappearing into a
blind alley – now that would be a sad sight.

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