Why a free press can't be dismantled to accommodate the 'foibles' of the rich and famous

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre put forward a compelling case for intruding into the private lives of the rich and famous in his supplementary witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry.

In it he quotes from a piece written gy Auberon Waugh for the New Statesman in the 1970s, defending legendary Mail gossip writer Nigel Dempster.

It is one of the oldest pastimes of the poor and unprivileged to gossip about the rich and powerful … [and] I would have thought it a small price to pay for being rich, or beautiful, or exceptionally talented, or even famous. If, as a famous person, you are in the habit of doing things which would make you ashamed if they were more widely known, then you have a clear choice between changing your habits, changing your attitude to them or retreating from the public stage. The other course of action is to cross your fingers and hope Nigel Dempster never finds out, but I do not think it reasonable to expect the entire structure of a free press to be dismantled in order to accommodate your foibles.

As quoted by Stephen Glover in a recent piece for The Independent.

Dacre said: “Many of the people who are covered in our papers – film stars like Hugh Grant, celebrity chefs and singers – are famous because they choose to be. Their publicity experts arrange interviews and photo-shoots.

“Their agents ring when they are going to be in a certain place for a ‘candid shot’. We review their films and given a huge amount for space to their TV appearances…

“The publicity tap is not something you can turn on and off. Stories emerge that do not flatter these stars. To ignore the truth behind the carefully manipulated images would provide only a partial picture. To  that would be to betray the readers.”


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