With all the furore over the phone tapping in Murdoch’s newspaper empire an important factor is being lost -it was journalists who discovered what was happening. Most journalists have ethics which would not allow them to carry out the criminal activities known to have happened in the News of the World. Those who are members of the National Union of Journalists have a Code of Conduct which they sign up to on joining. And, over-riding all the ethical questions and evasive, vague, Select Committee public answers, there is an even more fundamental issue – freedom of the media to investigate possible wrong-doing.
With a narrow number of media owners and an increasing dependency on a few major sources of advertising, there is a struggle to maintain a balance. It costs money to run newspapers and pay sufficient journalists to find the news. When the number of workers is dramatically reduced, as it has been in Glasgow in recent times – those remaining have to work twice as hard to maintain the daily – or hourly momentum. Going out to FIND and CHECK stories becomes a luxury. What is in hand, provided by public relations people from companies who can afford them, is used as the easy option. Often such releases go out after the event, so that journalists don’t have the opportunity to attend even if their bosses wanted to send them. The opportunities to FIND news and meet real people whose lives are the actual story, are reduced considerably. Uncovering anything that has been hidden or may be corrupt takes a lot more time, people and resources than now exists in media offices across the land.