We’ve now had the first three weeks of the Leveson enquiry into journalistic ethics. Created after the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World was uncovered, we’ve seen a steady stream of both celebrities and those caught up in news stories appear to give their testimony.
And in many cases the level of press intrusion has been horrifying – for example the News of the World sent a reporter posing as a doctor to the hospital where Anne Diamondgave birth and offered her nanny £30,000 for a story.
I've talked about the PR implications of phone hacking for the Murdoch empire in the past. In fact the enquiry so far is actually helping the rehabilitation process for both James and Rupert. All of the perpetrators of phone hacking and dubious ethical behaviour who were at News International at an operational level have now left, the News of the World itself has been shut down and the spotlight is widening onto other news organisations and if they used similar tactics. So whatever your views on the Murdochs the short term pain, grovelling apologies and low profile are actually delivering the results.
Another point that struck me about some of the witnesses, such as Paul McMullan, former News of the World features editor, was their similarities in outlook to many involved in social media when it came to the question of privacy.
I’ve heard internet entrepreneurs such as Ted Shelton state that there is no gap between public and private life anymore, which he sees as a force for good that makes people more reflective about their actions. McMullan put it much more baldly and crudely: “Privacy is for paedos, fundamentally. No-one else needs it. Privacy is evil. It brings out the worse qualities in people. It brings out hypocrisy.”
I’d disagree – everyone is entitled to a private life on or off-line, but it is vital to balance this with the public interest. There are plenty of politicians who would like to muzzle investigative journalism – forgetting how it has uncovered genuine scandals, including, for those with short memories, the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone that led directly to this enquiry.
In an era where more and more of our lives are carried out in the public eye all of us need protection – but we need to take responsibility over our own actions on the web rather than simply criticising journalists.
This is a guest blog written by Chris Measures, founder of Cambridge-based technology PR and marketing company, Measures Consulting. It first appeared in the blog: http://measuresconsulting.wordpress.com/
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