Friday, November 30, 2012

Will the law help to regulate the press?

So, I wonder how many of us have put the book we're reading aside and downloaded the two thousand pages of the Leveson report. It's hardly bedtime reading but the few pages I've read are well crafted. But will I read more than a few pages?

I was struck in the storm of comment accompanying its publication yesterday how David Cameron used the same language to describe a statutory backing to press regulation that had been used repeatedly the day before by the chief executive of News International. They both spoke of it as crossing the rubicon.

Was there no one in Cameron's news management team who suggested that using the same terminology would appear unfortunate in a prime minister's statement about a major report that is fiercely critical of the popular press, especially those titles run by News International?

Having said that, however, I did find myself agreeing with Cameron. I find myself instinctively opposed to the law getting involved in the regulation of papers because it could lead to the stories that need to be told being suppressed while the stuff that has driven the popular press into the gutter will remain in the headlines.

What is needed is a culture change in newsrooms about what constitutes news and a moral and professional change among journalists about how they go about gathering the stories that are worth telling. I'm not the law can make either of those happen.

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