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The front cover

Huw L. Hopkins attended the launch debate, marking the release of the first ever book published on the hacking scandal.

 

Tuesday 7th of February saw the official release and launch debate of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (Arima 2012).

The book marks a turning point in journalism that will affect all journalists and the future of their profession. The debate panel featured a mixture of editors, journalists and academics, all highly respected in their trade. Chaired by Raymond Snoddy with live heated discussion from Kevin Marsh, Richard Peppiatt, Glenda Cooper, Bob Satchwell and Paul Connew, all of who recalled anecdotes of both a serious and a comical nature.

One of the editors of the book, John Mair strutted proudly around the lecture hall, relaxing on his walking stick like a Monopoly man with every property in hand. He and Richard L. Keeble have released The Phone Hacking Scandal at the peak of the Leveson Inquiry, that features many professionals who have sat, and many who will in due course, in front of Lord Justice Leveson.

The panel played the role of Crown, prosecution and defence as Snoddy allowed everyone equal time to let their opinions be heard.

Kevin Marsh and Richard Peppiatt spoke in favour of the prosecution. Marsh stated “I found it easy to contribute to this book” as he recalled some of the evidence he had heard at the Inquiry. Peppiatt told stories of his time as a tabloid journalist and how he asked himself “is this what I signed up to?”, when chasing Jack Tweed through the streets of London without any reason.

Paul Connew took on the brave role of defendant, as a former deputy editor at the News of the World. Despite not being present during the period of phone hacking, he admitted that “there was a period of four years where the lunatics were allowed to take over the asylum”, a statement that everyone on the panel agreed with. Backing him up with caution was Bob Satchwell who, as a younger journalist, also worked at the NoW prior to any illegal activities. He stood up for the red tops at one point saying, “tabloid journalists should be drinking in the last chance saloon”; as it is only then other hacks know where that line is.

In a central, ethical advisory role sat academic Glenda Cooper, who offered her own knowledgeable insight on the rise of social media, “it is easier to treat people like collateral damage if you’re not knocking on someone’s door”.

Despite the typically awful taste of the wine, it still flowed like a French Merlot between journalists meeting for a common cause, as well as a good gossip.

The panel sharing a few laughs

Raymond Snoddy did invite lighter moments in to the debate when Phil Harding, who was sitting in the audience, claimed David Blunkett’s affair with Kimberly Fortier was the first moment where ethical considerations went out the window. Snoddy said “What annoyed me was that I had lunch with Kimberly Fortier at least four times and nothing ever happened between us”.

Aside from the occasional japes, the book launch celebration exposed more ethically questionable practices than Lord Leveson could dream of hearing inside his courtroom. This included a snippet of information from another audience member, the erudite Nicholas Jones. “We mustn’t lose sight of the relationship between the proprietors and the government of the day. We knew how deep this was and we as journalists should have conspired together to go against proprietors.”

Many of the panellists, and several members of the audience contributed to the newly released textbook, a seminal work that John Mair doesn’t want anybody forgetting about. “Let’s not mince words here, we’re not just here to listen to a debate, we’re here to buy books” but the co-editor may be happy to give a free copy to Lord Justice Leveson himself.

Read Huw L. Hopkins’ contributory chapterNobody likes a rotten apple, but someone picks them’ in The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial now, or on his website http://www.huwlhopkins.com.

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 Huw L. Hopkins attended the launch of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial and discovered the most important thing to a journalist; the other side of the story.

 As journalists to be, we are being taught, or have recently been taught by people with morals. How many tutors you know are ignorant, arrogant, unethical arseholes? Despite what we may say under our breath when assignments are announced, we are quite lucky to be blessed with such good people to teach us in our chosen trade.

 As a Masters student at Coventry University, I am particularly lucky to view the critically acclaimed Coventry Conversations, which sees a handful of industry experts each week as speakers and guest lecturers about journalism. This is usually a collection of people who fall under what John Mair calls ‘the old pals act’, journalists whom he has previously worked with across a variety of platforms. The speakers tend to adhere to a similar ethical code and belief as the man who invited them.

 This positivity can sometimes be a drawback. My gut instinct would lead me to believe that your tutor or previous tutor, is a professional journalist who has worked for the BBC, or the Independent, perhaps even The Times when it was more Labour focused, and they will no doubt have plenty of experience on a local circuit. They will mostly read the Guardian. Any journalist worth his salt understands how important the liberal leaning national is, and how it upholds the correct morals and objections in society.

 Even Paul Connew, former deputy editor of the News of the World said “the Murdoch I used to know and work for, despite the loss of BSkyB, despite the closure of the News of the World, he probably has a begrudging respect for what the Guardian does.”

 He spoke at the book launch debate of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial, published by Arima on the 7th February 2012 and edited by John Mair and Richard L. Keeble, another journalist who dabbles in teaching his profession.

 The live event held at the Coventry University London Campus saw people from both sides of the journalism food chain heatedly and humorously discuss the phone hacking saga and the Leveson inquiry at length. It also featured the quotable Kevin Marsh, the recovering tabloid hack Richard Peppiatt, the executive director at the Society of Editors and academic Glenda Cooper, without forgetting the illustrious chairman of the debate, Raymond Snoddy.

 While its likely nobody will have changed their mind over which direction their moral compass faced, after all John Mair did say “let’s not mince words; we’re not just here to listen to the debate, we’re here to buy books”, it did provide a good platform for a young journalist to see more than just the critical viewpoint of the holier-than-thou journalists in the fight against the red tops.

 Before any wannabe hacks begin their studies in journalism, many of them will have heard names like Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch but not all of them will understand their role in the industry, or their personality. Most young journalists will have not met, and may never meet these two controversial figures, we can only learn about them from the Chinese whispers that have circulated, evolved and morphed into something that is arguably worse than they are.

 Even when Connew admitted at the book launch that “for about four years, the lunatics were running the asylum”, another former assistant editor at the NoW, Bob Satchwell was quick to defend the red top industry “the tabloid press should be in the last chance saloon”. This is a statement onlookers of the hacking crisis should not forget. The British public are a wide diverse population that will not be forced into reading broadsheets everyday.

 The event’s audience boasted names like Phil Harding and the erudite Nicholas Jones who were both asked for their esteemed opinion throughout the debate and this alone was a great reason for young hacks to attend, listen and learn.

 These angelic journalists who have rarely put a foot wrong in their respective careers might dismiss anything that Paul Dacre or Rupert Murdoch do as evil or morally bankrupt, and with good reason, but not everybody who work on their side of the industry are.

 As a young journalist who is keen to learn all I can about the industry I have chosen to work in, it is important to remember that whilst my lecturers are media professionals, and they have walked the correct path through the ethical long grass, that’s not say that those who have spent time in the oppositions trench don’t have knowledge and wisdom to depart.

 To hear what all parties had to say, the debate will be going live as a podcast on the Coventry University website soon, in the meantime there will be a secondary launch party at the University’s main campus in Coventry on Tuesday 14th February.

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Very few people really know who a journalist is. Unless you’re one of the famous personalities like Jeremy Clarkson or Piers Morgan nobody really pays the slightest bit of interest.

One of the lower profiles to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry was Richard Peppiatt. He didn’t have the celebrity to garner front-page news level of attention but he may have been one of the bigger stories to come to light so far. The tabloids barely put wrote about him at all, but that was for a different reason altogether.

Peppiatt was a ‘journalist’ at the Daily Star, he fell in to the role of a tabloid journalist and was asked to do some wildly unethical things to get stories, things he now regrets, and things he now campaigns against.

“I’m certainly very repentant in the way I conducted journalism.”

Peppiatt spoke to a enthralled Coventry Conversation audience on Thursday about the thing’s he’d done, what giving evidence was like, death threats linked to his former employer and that famous letter of resignation.

The famous Press Baron of the early 20th Century, Lord Northcliff once said, “News is what someone, somewhere wants to suppress, everything else is just advertising.” According to the ex-Star “The tabloid culture is; seeking out the truth is not an objective. It’s a matter of how aggressively can we frame this story to make the most impact.”

It is for this reason the Select Committee for Culture, media and sport interviewed and re-interviewed nearly every member of the News of the World management, it is why the PCC is on its last legs, and it is for this reason the Leveson Inquiry is being taken seriously to the majority who aren’t in the tabloid media or the Mail.

The reason Peppiatt left was originally due to the anti-Muslim undertones the majority of the Star’s content, but the racism didn’t just stop at Muslims. “Black on black killing were called BOB-slaying behind closed doors. If a young, attractive, white woman with blonde hair gets murdered, that’ll get more coverage than a young black male. When they do write about them, it’s more of a caricature. That’s tabloid journalism, creating the caricature.”

In his resignation letter he openly stated the reasons for his departure and this may have indeed upset people at the top. “I started getting death threats saying ‘you’re a marked man til the day you die’ or that ‘Richard Desmond will get you’. This isn’t confirmed to be anyone that works for the paper but Peppiatt did say it was a person linked to the tabloid world.

For everything Richard Peppiatt did as a journalist for the Daily Star; from proposing to Susan Boyle, just for the photograph, to writing hurtful content about the death of Matt Lucas’ former husband, and even being ambushed by anti-terror police when he pretended to be a Muslim woman dressed in a full veil, this is certainly no way to treat a former employee.

“Some days we would have three people writing the entire newspaper”, an average reader would never know this. Included in that day’s content would be un-edited press releases, articles written under pseudo-names (look up the name Laura Neil and you’ll see some of Peppiat’s work), reworded news from the Daily mail and fake headlines “Simon Cowell is dead”.

“When I first got there, I thought, it’s a break on to Fleet Street, because everybody wants to work for the Guardian but not everybody can”.

As the Leveson Inquiry rumbles on even Guardian journalists will have to reveal some ‘underhand’ tactics they used to get some of their stories. As David Leigh put it at his evidence hearing “I don’t hack phones normally. I have never done anything like that since. I’d never done anything like that before. On that particularly small occasion, this minor incident did seem to be perfectly ethical.” This level of ethicality seemingly never translated to Peppiatt’s view when inside the Daily Star.

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