Coulson: Or how Journos sometimes behave badly…

Memorable line from Frazer Nelson of the Spectator who noted on the Daily Politics just now that the careers of all spin doctors end something like this… Guido reckons it is because Coulson’s junior at the News of the World as about to dob him in… Here’s how the story first broke the year before last

Interestingly Steve Richards thinks in the big round of things that this is one of the smaller stories of the day… I’d probably agree, but mostly because we already had the broad outline of the story more than 18 months ago… But it is curious just how reluctant British journalists are to critique their peers

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed I have made the point many times on Slugger that journos dont criticise their peers. The flagrant breach of human rights in “phone tapping” is a major issue and journos would be indignat if their phones were being tapped by the State (Geraldine Kennedy & Bruce Arnold). Yet curiously previous attempts to “big up” the Coulson story on Slugger have “died” thru lack of interest.

  • Having the broad outline, and knowing the scale of the evil are two different things.

    Maybe it is time that professional lying was made an imprisonable offence. And those whose job is to lie on behalf of others should be assumed to by lying until they prove otherwise. That would include all PR people and all lawyers. I’m not sure how many politicians or journalists should be included.

  • journos don’t criticise their peers

    Hold on, fitzjameshorse1745 @ 12:53 pm!

    So, what have I been reading about in the Guardian and now the Indy?

    Meanwhile, Mick Fealty’s headline post seems to me to be misjudged in just one important respect.

    Agreed, the story is no longer about Coulson (unless he has perjured himself): it went way past him a while back. It’s about News International paying off one celeb after another, with more and more forming an orderly queue. It’s about Her Majesty’s learned judges not buying a LOLcat in a High Court poke (for which see Sunny Hundal and others at Liberal Conspiracy). It’s about the failure of the Met Police to do the business; and then attempt a whitewashing job of Forth Bridge proportions.

    This story has still got legs.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Redfellow,
    I typed the word “Coulson” into Archives and there appears to be two threads both in September.
    One started by Mr Fealty “Hackgate” has 15 comments. Six were made by me. Three by you.
    Another thread “Coulson Affair Could Be Bad For Us All” (Brian Walker) has 6 comments. Two from me and one from you. Respects to them.

    Surely there are more than enough in and around Slugger to start a thread or comment on existing threads. They would have a certain expertise.

    Now of course there might well be other threads. But contrast this with “Water” or “Security situation” and Governance and journos are more than willing to share their opinions with us.
    Contrast this with Freedom of Information threads. Or expenses. Or reporters hauled up before the courts. Or wrongdoing in any field.
    No journos dont criticise their peers.

  • wild turkey

    happy 2011 mr redfellow

    more or less agree with your take on the coulson saga. this story is a classic in the power of information.

    specifically the real story here is the relationship between the Met Polizei and various tentacles of the Murdoch empire. which i take to mean we, the public, will never know the depth and breadth of said relationship…. and said relationship will persist more or less intact. come to think of it, there ain’t all that much difference between hacking the communications of private individuals and sending police on deep undercover to, uh, sleep with “the enemy” powercrazed voyeuristic slapdicks the lot of them.

    oh yeah, what’s a LOLcat?


  • Well, fitzjameshorse @ 6:16 pm, I’ll take your word and recapitulation without question. I still reckon the whole Coulson/Hackgate/News International saga is profoundly important. Others in Sluggerdom may not agree; but I can assure you that’s not the case elsewhere. Cue Stephanie Flanders, trailing Newsnight:

    “What did you know, and when did you know it?” It’s the question that has dogged Andy Coulson – and his boss – since the former News of the World Editor became David Cameron’s director of communications in 2007.

    Explaining his resignation today, he said “when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it’s time to move on”.

    Downing Street may have hoped that Tony Blair’s return to the Chilcot inquiry would help take the spotlight off his departure. Not a bit of it. Westminster and Fleet Street can talk of little else.

    Conspiracy theorists are wondering whether News International executives had a hand in his departure, eager to finally get the phone-tapping scandal off the front pages.

    Questions are also swirling around the police investigation, and whether new evidence could leave Mr Coulson with fresh questions to answer. And what does it tell us about David Cameron’s judgment, that he chose Mr Coulson in the first place, then held on to him for so long?

    That’s covers much of my bit of the waterfront, watching the sea (the Billie Holiday version best I think; Ella at Montreux a distance behind).

  • wild turkey @ 6:45 pm:

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. Nice to agree occasionally around these parts.

    Had you asked me mid-afternoon, I would not know of a LOLcat. Had this pesky new interface allowed me to enter a hot-link, I could have directed you to LOLcats in numbers.

    That link would have been:


  • Mick Fealty


    Try hitting some of the links above… and here’s some more to be getting on with:

    Murdochgate round up (July 2009)

    No efforts made to control reporters activities (July 2009)…

    British journalism’s political underbelly… (July 2009)

    Journalism in denial… (July 2009)

    No new facts, ball with DPP (July 2009)

    How Cameron brought the tabloids in house… (July 2009)

    Yates of the Yard investigates… (July 2009)

    What political elites have to fear from blogs… (April 2009)

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thank you Mr Fealty.
    You will note that I paid my respects to you and Mr Walker.
    So eight more threads from 2009….six initiated by you and two from Mr Walker.
    Again …respect.
    And the comments
    2….14….9…..14……8…..8……3….and a bumper 26 on the earliest thread in which Guido Fawkes participated. Any substantive contribution from a journalist in any of those threads. From a job dedicated to bringing us information, that indicates a certain lack of enthusiasm for the subject.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, I’m not so down as you are on journalists as a body. We owe them a great deal. All I would say is that we could do with more critical thought about what journalism is and what it is becoming.

    As for the numbers, I’m of the mind that you should never mind the quantity feel the substance. One of the comments that struck me was the one in that first thread (2 comments); an accusation that we were following a non story.

    Hmmm… Now where have I heard that before… 😉

    If there is one thing wrong with journalism currently it is the idea that story is not a story if it is not amenable to a 30 second pitch. Sometimes you just have to put the leg work in and live with the possibility that it won’t bump up circulation for that day.

    Long term trends i the irish news market indicate the Irish Times circulation is actually up, mostly because it is one of the authoritative voices on the financial crisis. They’ve had the courage not to dumb down or propagandise: and they are getting the appropriate rewards.

  • Critiquing peers would be problematic, if they’re all at it:

    “News of the World was hardly alone in accessing messages to obtain salacious gossip. “It was an industrywide thing,” said Sharon Marshall, who witnessed hacking while working at News of the World and other tabloids. “Talk to any tabloid journalist in the United Kingdom, and they can tell you each phone company’s four-digit codes. Every hack on every newspaper knew this was done.”

    The NYT analysis also covers the perhaps too close relationship between the Metropolitan Police and the News of the World where the Met avails of the detective work of journalists and the NotW provides reciprocal PR for the Met. Presumably there will be numerous examples here of too close a relationship between the authorities and the media.

    Is there also a comparison to be made between hacking and leaking? Both provide information which can be in or against the public interest.

    Coulson was a special advisor and we’ve got a few of those. Perhaps it’s time to examine the role and scrutiny of SpAds within governance.

  • “Or how Journos sometimes behave badly”

    Perhaps we should also ask why such bad behaviour is happening and draw a sharper distinction between journalists, editors and media owners.

    “But interviews with more than a dozen former reporters and editors at News of the World present a different picture of the newsroom. They described a frantic, sometimes degrading atmosphere in which some reporters openly pursued hacking or other improper tactics to satisfy demanding editors. Andy Coulson, the top editor at the time, had imposed a hypercompetitive ethos, even by tabloid standards. One former reporter called it a “do whatever it takes” mentality. The reporter was one of two people who said Coulson was present during discussions about phone hacking. Coulson ultimately resigned but denied any knowledge of hacking.”

    The failure to report uncovered law-breaking, sleaze and poor governance accurately is another form of bad behaviour. It’s defensible if individuals or groups are put at risk of serious injury or death but not if it’s a consequence of prejudice or the threat of legal or financial action by vested interests.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If phone hacking is a crime then surely witholding information about that crime is also illegal. I can understand those in the News of the World exercising their right to silence.
    Less understandable is the silence of those who would appear not only to have a professional interest in what is actually going on in their “profession” but also a duty to report a major news story by telling us what they actually know.
    The Media (with honourable exceptions) is not as rigourous as we should expect. And would seem to “know more than their prayers”.
    Of course these are TABLOID journalists. So the “respectable” journalists tell us. But alas they cant distance themselves from their colleagues. There is no seperate National Union of Tabloid Journalists.
    Meanwhile its a gravy train for celebs.
    Be on that list and News of the World will pay out. Provided of course the stuff they hacked was harmless and domestic. If something well dodgy was involved the celebs might want it out of the spotlight.
    Doctors, Solicitors, Nurses, Teachers etc have effectively licences to practise. Why not the same for Journalists? Oh wait that would not be good for “freedom”.
    Nonsense of course.
    As my favourite journo, Peter Spencer claims..its not drink that gets journalists its their sense of self importance.

  • fitzjameshorse1745 @ 2:44 pm:

    As close as dammit is to swearing. we know that criminal phone-hacking on an industrial scale went on, and extended far beyond fluffy celeb culture. The CPS have gone on court record that Mulcaire had targetted some 4,000 individuals: only eight of these “cases” have been prosecuted. Curiously, these focused on noctural boozing by young royals. Other, arguably more sensitive, targets included cabinet ministers and senior police officers.

    Yes, I’d have to agree with fitzjameshorse1745 that there has been selective blindness in many quarters: the press and the police alike. That only makes it worse: should the accusation against News Int. not be blackmail?

    It crosses my mind to wonder what would be the tone of UK reaction were the offences committed in Italy by one of Berlusconi’s cronies, rather than in Britain by one of Osborne’s and Cameron’s.

  • Beaverbrook

    The reality is that journalism is in crisis. We should go beyond the point that journalists are reluctant to criticise each other and examine the extent to which journalism is in the poor state that it is in and why.
    It is my contention that these arise for economic and technological reasons. And while those sound simple the effect they’ve had on the quality of journalism has been disproportionate and has had a hugely negative effect, not just on the profession, but ultimately on the ability to hold government and others to account.
    The economic factors are clear and are driven partly by falling advertising and sales revenues and the eagerness of industry owners to seek technological and internet answers in an attempt to achieve efficiencies. This has distorted competition in the market place.
    It’s perhaps just as easy to relate all this through our own local product. In the past all media outlets competed fiercely with each other. There were local government, industry, political, sports and general news disciplines among others. All disciplines had dedicated reporters and many had correspondent and editor status. All newspapers, radio and television were part of this market and achieved significant audiences and sales in what was a very” hard news” patch. The outcome was that competition for stories and beating the opposition was at the forefront.
    Remove the finance capacity and inject the easy options of celebrity and freedom of information requests, disguised as investigative journalism, and you start to see how attractive it is for owners to downsize. Add in a good dollop of internet based comment and you’re arriving at a different journalism model. Except – it’s not journalism or it’s a very pale comparison.
    The only organisation not following this in the same way as the private market is the BBC which has now become monolithic, dominating radio, television and the internet. But the crucial factor that’s missing is real competition – that is not good for journalism or the BBC. There’s is no doubt some journalists possess individual skills but they are in a market place where they don’t really have to hone them.
    In today’s market The Dead Donkey story could just as easily be the lead. Of course there’s lots of copy and lots of noise but it is just that – noise. Add in the bloggersphere and 24 hour news availability and you can see how journalism is in a tailspin.
    Government, regional and local, of course likes this because there is no real valued critique of it’s work – and don’t mistake the stories around the crisis at NIW for top end journalism. It took a meteorological event to bring all that about.
    The answer has got to be injecting greater valued competition into the industry and if its to be based around real accountability it must reach out to the local local market place – establishing in people’s minds the need to question and expect answers about their local services. That can drive knowledge and achieve something of the accountability referred to above. Polemic, opinion, celebrity, comment and News of the World style phone taps are no substitutes but unfortunately its what we’ve ended up with. The importance though is it’s not only journalism we need to save its ourselves.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Selective blindness. Selective muteness.

  • Can you imagine the dirt that spooks have on anyone of interest and/or in a position of power, and the control that that would then give them, for very few folk have any idea at what can be done today to deliver to Intelligence, your every future thought and dodgy past move.

    Some would tell you that all of that is a crazy myth and just wishful thinking by such personnel, and they will agree with you should you ever be able to ask them about it, but they would say that, wouldn’t they, so that you are their little puppet on a string and totally unaware of their Total Information Awareness facilities.

  • fordprefect

    There are some really good jounos out there, Paxo, John Pilger, Jon Snow etc. but, most are exactly as mentioned above, would not criticise each other. They are like solicitors, try getting one solicitor to sue another for say malpractice (and believe me I’ve tried) not a chance!

  • Fordprefect

    At that level they are no longer journalists but barristers , quickly assimilating the work of the programme’s researchers and prosecuting the case. They, however, will tell you otherwise.

  • fordprefect

    Spot on.

  • DC

    Badly Mick??

    Who was it that cautioned us about the banality of evil?

    Here’s a guy that has had so many allegations of phone hacking KGB style yet the Conservatives of all political parties take someone like him on – and place him into Number 10? What was Cameron thinking?

    Then to have to watch Coulson sail in and out in such a mundane and unassuming fashion – like the gnomes of Zurich – grey and characterless – then to think he has probably sat down and sanctioned phone hacking and sat and listened in and printed people’s private lives, ruining their futures and lives through embarrassment and ridicule. What a scummy man because of all those lives ruined.

    All joking and fun aside – remember Max Mosley’s son killed himself not long after Mosley’s sex exposure in the News of the World.

    Good riddance to Coulson what an utterly despicable man!

  • DC, I think we should also be concerned about the closeness of party leaders to media moguls. Favourable publicity is most likely to have a price attached. The separation of Media and State IMO is far more crucial now than the separation of Church and State.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Something interesting on a football website tonight.
    Andy Gray, the sacked Sky(owned by Rupert Murdoch) pundit who carelessly said a lot of nasty stuff while mics were still “on” was suing “News International (owned by Rupert Murdoch) for hacking his phone.
    Conspiracy Theory or is that how Journalism works?

    Anyway good riddance to Andy Gray.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Two years ago the MPs Expenses Scandal shocked Britain. Iain Dale speaking on Sky News “Press Preview” wonders whether News of the World caving in on its previous claim that Clive Goodman was an isolated case is related to the bigger issue of Murdoch needing to clean up News International so that he can make a winning bid for BSkyB.
    Rupert seemingly can be a bit ruthless. One wonders just how many NUJ members will end up in prison.
    Iain Dale speculates that this will not have the same effect on public confidence that the Expenses Scandal had as he argues that this is exactly the kind of thing the public expect of Journalists.
    Surely there must be some journo……somewhere …who can stand up and defend Journalism.