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In the news since 91

Issues in international journalism

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A horse, a sword, but no chivalry #NotW #hacking #Leveson
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The news, reported in  The Daily Telegraph and many other British media outlets, that Rebecca Brooks was lent a retired police horse, is the latest detail of the scandals surrounding News International which has allowed rival news organizations to write headlines filled with barely concealed glee.

Every PR planning a launch dreams of news coverage which will have even greater impact than advertising, but it is doubtful that The Sun has benefitted from the revelations which followed the launch of its new Sunday edition.
The Independent on Sunday
even claimed an exclusive as it wondered, 'Was 'Sun on Sunday brough forward to beat revelations?'  Most pundits pronounced it more of the same. Remembering bleary-eyed nightshifts at GMTV in the 1990s, when a weak front page story in a red top tabloid was sometimes the sign of a big exclusive held back for the final edition, I shared Alastair Campbell's tweeted suspicion that the Sun on Sunday's first story was a phoney one.  

The ordeals of News International's top brass, past and present, have a very serious, and a sometimes silly, side. The serious side - harassment and corruption of press, police, and perhaps politics - overshadow the silly.  Some bankers are probably please that the Leveson enquiry is drawing to the press public attention and anger which might otherwise be directed at them.

Part of the reason for the downfall of the News of the World may be the effect that changing technology has had on journalism in the last two decades. On 26 January, The Guardian website reported, 'Leveson inquiry: Facebook, Google, Popbitch executives appear'. Facebook; Google; Popbitch: three names which would have meant nothing in the 1990s, when phones were being hacked; three names without which an enquiry into the press could not be held today. So when it started to hack phones, the News of the World may have felt itself under pressure as never before from the internet: a place where stories could be broken without regulation, and read for free.

Technological change was enabling new competitors to threatening the profits of printed papers like the News of the World. At the same time, it was permitting the News of the World to access a whole new source of exclusive stories, as they listened to other people's phone messages with unprecedented ease. This was a double-edged sword which they did not know how to wield, and which eventually killed them off.