Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Leveson Inquiry

In the last few weeks I've been following closely the Leveson Inquiry that's taking place looking into press standards and ethics.

We've seen a number of celebrities, members of the public and journalists give evidence, lifting the lid on some of the unsavory ways the tabloid press operates - as well as how it intrudes into the private lives of celebrities and members of the public.

Some mornings I've been in a newsagents and I've looked at the front pages of the national newspapers to see what they're covering - very few have featured the inquiry on their front pages.

Leveson Inquiry? What Leveson Inquiry? lets just bury our heads in the sand and pretend none of this is really happening. The Press make me laugh some days.

Well it is happening and the image of the tabloids and journalism in general couldn't get any lower.

What the inquiry has revealed is an element of tabloid journalism that's out of control. A bullying, intimidating nasty form of journalism that uses tactics more familiar with those used by the secret police in the old Communist Eastern bloc countries in the Cold War.

I think the inquiry has helped shift public perception a little. When it came to the rich and famous, there was an opinion that celebs shouldn't complain too much about press intrusion as they regularly court the media and the press when it suits them.

That's a fair point, but what the inquiry along with the phone hacking scandal has shown is that both celebrities and ordinary members of the public have experienced press intrusion that simply isn't acceptable, warranted or even in the public interest.

Yet despite the terrible image journalism currently has, I still feel a huge sense of passion for journalism and the important role a free press can play in a democratic society.

It's important to remember, tabloid journalism doesn't define the entire profession of journalism. To me it's almost a separate branch of journalism which needs to get its house in order following this inquiry.

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic in thinking that people will separate tabloid journalism from other forms of journalism but they should.

As for independent press regulation, I'm naturally against it but the tabloids have acted so irresponsibly they've given the impression that they can't regulate themselves.

The Press Complaints Commission is charged with enforcing the code of practice for the press, and in theory this should work - the only problem is that it just isn't enforced strongly enough.

It's hard to say whether the Leveson inquiry will make any difference to the culture of tabloid journalism, I hope it does but at the moment I don't see what actions can be taken to curb some of the more unsavory actions of the press.

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