Guardian phone-hacking exposure: a lonely road against latent menace

The Guardian led the way in exposing phone-hacking by journalists of News International. Other papers now cover it too, including The Times, a News International title, but for many months they looked the other way.

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger spoke for an hour at the Philips Geddes lecture in Oxford last Friday about the lonely place his newspaper found itself in when it broke the story and followed up over a period of months.

The Head of the Metropolitan Police came to his office trying to persuade him to lay off. Another senior police officer turned up a few days later to exert more pressure. Subsequently it emerged some police and other officials were being corrupted by News International with regular payments for salacious gossip.

News International at first denied practically everything. Over the following months they admitted quite a lot.

Other newspapers kept away from the story, which leads Rusbridger to conclude they had an unspoken understanding not to attack Murdoch’s newspapers. Prime Minister David Cameron continued friendly contacts with News International executives.

Rusbridger can quietly count his triumphs. The two senior policemen have had to resign. Cameron has had to rid himself of the former News International editor who was his communication director.

James Murdoch and Rebekah Wade have lost their top jobs at News International’s UK newspapers. The group’s best-selling UK newspaper has had to close. A number of News International journalists have been arrested.

The newspaper rivals to the Guardian have had to follow a story they originally spurned.

And the independent Leveson inquiry into the media has been lifting the lid on malpractices and corruption of an extent nobody imagined.

When I was a journalist, I too can remember the hot breath of powerful figures occasionally leaning over my shoulder with latent menace, if not on the scale that Rusbridger must have felt.

He has an understated style and does not crow. All credit to him for walking a path others dared not tread.

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2 Responses to “Guardian phone-hacking exposure: a lonely road against latent menace”

  1. malcnoo Says:

    Good summing up of the situation

  2. Alistair Scott Says:

    Right on the money, Marcus! One of the principal questions raised by the Guardian’s enquiry was ‘Who runs the UK?’. I was brought up to believe it was Parliament, but watching a succession of NI executives thumbing their noses at Westminster, coupled with the other papers either ignoring the findings or deriding them, I began to wonder (and still do).

    But the Guardian kept on bravely plugging away and it has exposed corruption and veniality of the highest order. I still can’t understand how a newspaper can hack the phones of the deputy Prime Minister and it’s executives not be jailed for substantial terms. The security implications (apart from anything else) are horrendous.

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