Trust me, I’m a journalist

July 8, 2011

I’ve been glued to the News of the World scandal as it has unravelled. I admit I only became sucked in when the horrific news came out that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked. When it was just the likes of Hugh Grant, I’m afraid I just shrugged. Having worked for nearly seven years on a tabloid newspaper, I know full well that celebrities are keen enough to generate publicity, and will do virtually anything to get it, when it suits them. Hacking anyone’s phone is not on, obviously – it’s against the law. But actors who have not always been averse to courting publicity complaining about getting, ah, publicity, once they consider themselves rich and famous enough, are just a little bit meh, I think.

The trouble with a scandal of this magnitude is that it will convince the public that journalists are all criminals and liars. We’re not – honest. People already think we’re as bad as *gulp* estate agents. Now they’ll be convinced that every hack has full-on Kray twin potential. We really don’t. When I worked on a tabloid, the Daily Express in the 1990s, we never, ever hacked a phone. Not once. I was never asked to do anything illegal. In fact, the lawyers were always coming round and making sure that everything was above board.

I suppose the trouble is that corruption had become so endemic at the News of the World that the journalists involved had ceased to notice they were breaking the law. And then, no doubt, these journalists would switch jobs, and work on other papers, presumably taking their dubious *skills* of phone-hacking and their assumptions that corruption was ok with them. Hacking someone’s phone is a very easy way to get a quick picture of their life. A hell of a lot easier than doing it the old fashioned tabloid way – by going through their bins (by the way that’s a joke, I never did that either – it’s illegal too). I still find it really, really hard to believe that phone-hacking happened on other papers, though. Maybe I’m just being naive. Maybe I’m clinging to an outdated view of the old Fleet Street, before we had the Internet, Google and email, when you actually had to find things out the hard way. Seems as quaint as using quill pens now.

I feel for the 200 hacks at the News of the World who are suddenly out of work. The vast majority of them must have arrived at the paper way after the scandals, and are completely blameless. They are ordinary people with families and mortgage payments looming. Meanwhile, the former editor of the paper planned her holidays with an almost clairvoyant ability to avoid troublesome moments, completely outdoing her columnist, Mystic Meg, who didn’t exactly see closure coming. And this former editor is still employed by News International.

I know a newspaper with a fearless reputation for investigating crimes, and bringing wrong-doers to book, which could really get its teeth into the bizarre survival of this News International executive. Oh, but ooopsie. It’s gone and closed down.

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  • Jane Alexander July 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Oh well said, DD… I just winced at everyone crowing about those people losing their jobs – regardless of their role. I think people think *journalist* and assume hard-bitten newshound or pap – not realising that the vast majority on papers are soft, lily-livered subs, feature writers, picture researchers et al… I never door-stepped once in my career, never rooted through a bin, never hacked a phone… thank god!
    It’s grim that the innocent have to suffer while those in charge go scot-free….

    • Dulwich Divorcee July 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      Actually I did have to doorstep a couple of people but they were out! Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it ….. not the nicest thing in the world to have to do…. and I think that’s another reason why hacking phones is so wrong. It’s a lot easier to do that in the comfort of your own home, without having any real contact with your victim, than it is to go and have to ask them difficult questions in person …. facing someone on a doorstep reminds you that they are a real person, with real feelings, and I think the stories are more compassionate as a result. Sorry, went on a bit there but I do think the phone hacking is evil on lots of levels xx

  • Jacqui - Mummy's Little Monkey July 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I had to doorstop once, when I was 18, and I’m still traumatised about it!!! Cemented my firm decision to go into the world of magazine features, where I have stayed for 20 years!!!! I’m certainly not a hard-nosed hack either – I usually end up crying (subtly and professionally, of course) during half of my true-life interviews!!!!

    • Dulwich Divorcee July 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Gawd, poor you, isn’t it the most dreadful feeling? I really, really hated it – knew then that I was never going to be a hard-bitten hack like Lou Grant in my lovely photo above …. I think mags are a million times more civilised though I don’t know how you do those true-life features, I would be in bits too!