The Times today touched on what is likely to be one of central questions for the Leveson Inquiry into press standards – “how car can the press go in the public interest?”
It asked former Times editor Harold Evans, Bild editor Kai Diekmann, journalist Heather Brooke and blogger Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) to discuss where they think the balance lies. Read the full story here on The Times£.
The public damage expected to be revealed ought to be proportionate to the intrusion…
In editing contentious stories, I always asked myself a simple question: are we ready, on publication, to describe the steps we took to make our revelations? If we cannot we should not take them.
Our business is based on disclosure, so obviously information has a value – a value we ourselves claim when asking readers and users to pay for our publications. Therefore an editor, if there is no other way to acquire relevant information (or at least material promising to be relevant), must be able to pay for it without having to face a prosecutor afterwards.
This must even be the case, as it is in Germany, when the material offered has dubious or illegal origin. Because journalism is not about spending hours in press conferences Journalists must be ready to dirty their hands if necessary.
Journalists are, or ought to be, the public’s hired guns sent out to collect information, question it, verify it and distil it to what is important and true. This takes time and skill, and is the only thing a journalist does that marks him or her out as a professional. It’s also the reason why anyone would choose well-known newspaper’s website over an unknown blog.
The survival of journalism in the digital age rests on its unique selling point: serving this public interest. Fail or forget to do that, and it has no future.
Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes):
My experience tells me that the old adage that a politician who lies to his wife is more likely to lie to the voters is as true today as it always has been: it tells us something worth knowing about his trustworthiness. But does it tell us anything about a footballer?
Judges seem to believe that we should not be told the embarrassing marital secrets of the football stars so admired as role models by team-strip-wearing young boys. That is a dangerous extension of judicial press censorship.