Friday, 10 July 2009

The Times, The Guardian and the phone hackers

It's a tricky thing to be the editor of a Murdoch paper at the moment. Do you just ignore the growing crescendo of stories suggesting that News International journalists systematically used private investigators to hack illegally into the phones of the famous? Or do you accept that the story isn't going to go away and try and steer your readers away from the allegations covering three double page spreads and the front page of the Guardian?

If you're the Times, you run a double page spread of your own (brave move although no-one's suggesting that Times journalists did any hacking) but you write the story so skilfully that you mention the fresh allegations in just a couple of paragraphs. Instead you focus on the two-year old story of News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private detective Glen Mulcaire, with a sidebar of very useful information about how to be an investigative journalist. So you've tackled the story - without tackling it. Masterful.

The problem for the Times is that it's not directly involved and isn't implicated in any wrongdoing. But it's umbilically joined to its much more disreputable sister papers, the News of the World and the Sun (and, it has to be said, the Times has benefited from the tabloids' profitability). All the Murdoch papers are in this together, for better or worse and this has shaped the Times' editorial content on this story. A new example of corporate self-censorship?

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