The closure of the News of the World – The end of investigative journalism?
The final ever edition of the News of the World rolled off the presses yesterday ending 168 years of world exclusives, sex scandals and a plethora of showbiz revelations. However, whilst the decision to close Britain’s biggest selling paper, may help to repair News International’s damaged reputation on the world stage, in light of increasing allegations of phone hacking, it does raise questions about the future of investigative journalism and the freedom of the press in this country
The News of the World has been a fundamental part of British culture for decades and a driving force in breaking world exclusives and running high profile campaigns. These have ranged from 2003’s award-winning front page of Huntley in jail and last year’s alleged cricket match-fixing story to its For Sarah campaign in 2000. This mix coupled with regular showbiz, sport and political news is what made the News of the World a key cornerstone of the British media. That positivity has been somewhat overshadowed and lost in recent weeks, as the phone hacking scandal has engulfed the media and cast shadows over Westminster and Scotland Yard.
There is no denying that the News of the World’s alleged phone hacking of Milly Dowler in addition to the phones of families; of military service men killed in Afghanistan, the 7/7 bombings and the Soham murders is deplorable. That is, indisputable, but the fact that 200, largely innocent, journalists and staff have been made redundant to right the wrongs of the past, is not only a blow to British journalism, but British society as a whole.
Whatever your view of the News of the World may be, it was a fantastic newspaper. Yes, the nature with which it carried out its pursuit for exclusives is questionable, but, it did so with the intent of exposing and catching those involved and associated with some of the most horrific events in recent history. Had these tactics, however, uncovered crucial evidence, the public reaction would have been very different, and may not have resulted in the papers justifiable demise.
Now that the paper has been consigned to history and with the noose around theBritish press, the government and the Met Police growing tighter by the day, it remains to be seen what the future of the British press will be. Furthermore warnings from Rebekah Brooks that more allegations, worse than those already revealed, are expected to come to light in the weeks ahead, will no doubt intensify the debate, as the legitimacy of the Press Complaints Commission is bought into disrepute.
The danger, supported by the fact that the rest of the tabloids have essentially avoided reporting the downfall of the News of the World story for risk of being excused of ‘Pot calling the kettle black’, is that further allegations from the rest of the media will gradually come to light and force a tighter regulation on the press to come into force. If that happens, the freedom of the press and the drive and commitment to investigative journalism will be thwarted and severely handicap British society leading to an increasing number of stories in the public interest being sanctioned and concealed from the public.