First The Daily Sport and now this. The News of the World is scheduled to cease publication, leaving behind a legacy of celebrity scoops, tits and adverts. Admittedly, it was an awful paper, but it had it’s moments, didn’t it? I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but it has been being published for, like, you know, ages. That story about Wayne Rooney’s hair or something? I mean, I didn’t read it, but it looked funny from what I can tell. It was something about his hair.
I suppose, in the midst of the phone hacking scandal, it’s easy to feel angry towards the News of the World and the people who work there, but you have to bear in mind that most of those people were just following orders. Sure, they still chose to carry out those orders, valuing their jobs at one of Britain’s most unethical and trashy newspapers over their own moral values and journalistic integrity, but they’re not really to blame.
Hopefully, with any luck, they’ll be able to secure jobs at The Sun writing exactly the same content for pretty much the same readers.
There’s currently a video on the BBC website called: “Hugh Grant: How I exposed hacking”. It features the famous actor speaking to the BBC about how he recorded a conversation between himself and Paul McMullan, a former News of the World features executive. In the conversation, McMullan revealed details of phone hacking, not just by News of the World, but allegedly by all of the tabloid newspapers.
McMullan is present in the video to confirm what Grant says is true. Unsurprisingly, he is very unsympathetic towards the people who have had their phones hacked. “I’ve met many people in Dover who have come in…who, you know, work 8 hours a day on building sites and take home £220 a week [and] have very little sympathy for somebody who gets 5 million quid a film belting on, ‘Ooh, somebody listened to one of my messages once,'” he says.
And a dead child, Paul? The families of dead soldiers? Do these fictional patrons you speak of have any sympathy for those people? Or is only okay to hack somebody’s phone, to commit crimes and have utter disregard for people’s privacy, as long as they’re successful and wealthy?
Paul continues: “You said yesterday on Radio 5 that it was evil, it’s not really, it’s all just part of the game.”
“Paul, do you think the families and friends of Milly Dowler think that it’s a game, think that it’s funny? Do you think that they’re earning 5 million pounds a film?” asks Hugh.
“No, indeed, that’s why you got no sympathy at all from the people of Dover.” He then claims that the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone was a mistake and the News of the World’s interest has always been in writing truthful stories. So much so that they completely abandoned all ethical values and, you know, laws and shit.
I guess you could say that the paper was like a modern day Robin Hood — if Robin Hood was kind of a dick and unable to distinguish between good and bad. Their stories were so true, in fact, that mere mortals couldn’t even comprehend quite how true they were. They wrote stories so true that they literally couldn’t have been any more true.
Perhaps Paul is right and the News of the World is actually capable of producing excellent journalism, despite their bafflingly unprincipled means of obtaining information.
Okay, let’s have a look at some of those golden nuggets of truth, those stories that really set the benchmark in great journalism. Today on the front page of the News of the World website — a website comprised almost entirely of adverts and seductive photographs of scantily clad women — there’s a story that reads: “Cheeky mates show off Lamps’ Chelsea buns.”
That’s right. Fuck you, George Plimpton! This is journalism at its finest. Oh, and look, they’ve even got a picture of Frank Lampard’s buttocks. That’s great that is. Just great.
Further down the page lies the editors picks picks section, which includes the stories: “Kelly’s a legs factor winner”, “Pen reveals avast treasure chest” (they mean her tits), “Sexy Bey’s looking a Glas act (they mean her tits)”, “Revealed: the shape of Tamara (they mean her tits)”, “Kel going to “cosy” up to Thom (they mean her tits)” and “Rosie’s a bit of all Whiteley (they mean her tits)”.
So what? The editor likes softcore pornography — who doesn’t, eh? Snobbery is what this is, people thinking they’re too good to buy a gaudy newspaper filled with tits and ads. Well, what did you expect from a publication called News of the World? News? Sometimes half a dozen pairs of tits makes the news easier to digest. Perhaps the BBC should try it sometime.
As the interview continues, it becomes blindingly obvious that Paul McMullan doesn’t appear to think that phone hacking is at all unacceptable. “What better truth can you find, he says at one point, “than that on someone’s own mobile?”
Well, Paul, I suppose you could argue that torturing somebody by repeatedly sinking an electronic drill into their eyeball until they were forced to tell private and raunchy anecdotes about themselves would be a more effective way of getting the “truth”, but most journalists would probably stick to more respectable methods of finding information.
I think what Paul is overlooking here is that phone hacking is illegal and something that most people find understandably abhorrent. You can’t just go around justifying things that are illegal by saying, “Well, you know, he’s successful, isn’t he? He makes, like, millions of pounds a year, so it’s perfectly acceptable for me to cut his dick off with a hacksaw, isn’t it? I can do that right? He’s got money.” You can’t do that, Paul.
The exchange between Paul and Hugh finally ends with Hugh saying: “You should try real journalism because you’re not an idiot, Paul. You could probably do it.”
Personally, I’m not so sure.