The Guardian today praised the ‘bold’journalism of the Daily Mail’s coverage of the Stephen Lawrence murder.
In an editorial The Guardian said the case ‘clearly owes more to Stephen Lawrence’s parents than to anyone else”, but also acknowledged that the Daily Mail kept the issue in the public eye and that its coverage ‘became a national reprimand to the criminal justice and political system in a wider sense”.
Also in today’s Guardian, columnist Jonathan Freedland has written an article headlined: ‘In defence of Britain’s tabloid newspapers”.
In it he says that the Mail’s 1997 ‘Murderers” front page ‘helped make the case impossible to ignore’and was ‘without question, the Mail’s finest hour”.
‘Those who never pick up a red-top paper, except with a pair of sterilised tongs, might not realise it, but there is more to Britain’s tabloids than sleaze and celebrity,’said Freedland.
He focuses his praise mainly on the Daily Mirror, referencing an edition picked at random from The Guardian newsroom dated 30 November 2011, which contained stories on George Osborne’s autumn statement, Picasso etchings donated to the British Museum, a public sector strike, a report on the looting of the British embassy in Tehran and a story on the Stephen Lawrence trial.
The first celebrity stories did come until the 3am gossip column spread on pages 12 and 13.
“Maybe that was not a typical day,’said Freedland, adding: ‘Still, the Mirror remains engaged in topics that might surprise the tabloids’ detractors. It ran a series of reports last year from South Sudan; it is the lead backer of the anti-BNP Hope not Hate campaign; and it covers the war in Afghanistan properly – even after Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer was killed in Helmand.”
Tabloid editors don’t deny that they are in the business of entertaining as well as informing: broadsheet editors, if they are honest, will admit they do the same, albeit by different means (though sport and sex feature regularly in the Guardian’s “most viewed” stories online).
But one senior executive told me he also believes it is his job to educate his readers, to explain the world in plain, accessible language.
Even if that goal is rarely achieved, it is a noble one, one that any true democrat or egalitarian should support. For a true democracy cannot leave knowledge in the hands of the elite few; it has to be spread widely.
So, yes, it has made the most gruesome mistakes and, yes, those will require severe remedy – but Britain needs its popular press, now more than ever.
Last month the managing editor of The Sun, Richard Caseby, accussed The Guardian and its editor Alan Rusbridger of pursuing an anti-tabloid agenda.
Meanwhile, an editorial in The Daily Telegraph today said:
It should be remembered, too, that had it not been for the campaign by the Daily Mail there might never have been any prosecutions at all, something to be borne in mind by those who would seek to shackle the press with new regulations.
But if one bright light has shone throughout this sorry episode it has been the courage and dignity of Stephen Lawrence’s parents, Doreen and Neville. Now, at last, they can grieve properly for their lost son.
The Financial Times also noted in an editorial that “at a time when the conduct of the media is under scrutiny, the Daily Mail deserves credit for its courageous campaign to keep the case in public view”.