That’s Michael White’s verdict on the PM’s decision to go with a full investigation into the past actions of News International is that it is an attempt to to shoot the fox before the hunt begins. Yet I count a good many foxes in this race, and only some of them are political.
On the Today Programme on Radio Four this morning, Roger Graef alluded to one of them, what happens to the UK newspaper market if Murdoch sells his subsidised British titles? And the same man points to the chaos that may be looming with the British police…
It is hard to believe that the closing down of one major British title happened because of one story. British and US print journalism has not been the cash machine they once were, nor, as must be obvious from the way the Sun in particular vacillated over who it would back in the last general election, is it the reliable conduit it was once for politicians eager to connect to a national public increasingly alienated from the Westminister game.
Donal thinks there’s a powerplay between left and right afoot. Well, probably. Two years ago it was the British right who played politics by ignoring clear signs irregularity in the way the establishment handled serious allegations of widespread bugging and hacking. But Tom Watson had to break with the leadership consensus in his own party to bring matters to their current pass.
The frenzied score-settling of Westminster to one side, Paul Mason has written interestingly about the shift from old oligarchs like Murdoch and Conrad Black (who gives a useful reprise on his old bete noir in the FT today) to a hard-to-mediate intelligent commons.
But the first test will how effective Lord Justice Levenson will be. And more importantly, what will those effects be. Brian Cathcart on the Index on Censorship blog:
There is another whirlwind to come, because this inquiry and the debate which will accompany it will certainly bring big changes to British journalism. A lot of people will wish at times that the Pandora’s Box had never been opened and no doubt some will look back and rue these frenzied, disorienting days.
We will need to remember that the frenzy was the work of people who claimed to be journalists and who managed to do something so outrageous that, for at least a couple of weeks, everyone was thinking and talking about journalism and how it needed to change. And it isn’t just the hackers who are responsible but also the people who employed them and the people who indulged them — among them all those cynical journalists who make jokes about ethics.
If all goes well, what we will learn from the inquiry, over time, is something like the truth about hacking and the culture that created it. And journalists can’t really argue with the idea of learning the truth.
At the heel of the hunt much will depend on whether the journalism business can evolve a new and sustainable model to sustain the service it, albeit fitfully, provides the public.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty