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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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