A Tabloid Affair

Andy Coulson edited what remains one of the most vituperative and unsparing tabloid papers to ever be published. He is currently in the heart of the Cameron inner circle as the tribune of popular opinion in his guise as Head of Communications. The spat over his role in his former paper's phone tapping scandal, which has become the most partisan of recent Westminster quarrels, will doubtless soon fade away. Meanwhile, the Economist's Bagehot has both Coulson's former paper, and Coulson's current role, just about right. On the News of the World, which Coulson edited, he notes this:

FEW things frighten a British politician as much as a phone call from the News of the World, a ferocious, ruthless Sunday tabloid that is the country's best-selling newspaper. Many British daily newspapers are raucous, salacious and intrusive, while also being astonishingly professional. The NOTW takes all this to another level: no other publication devotes the same resources to getting scoops. The result is a weekly product that routinely crushes the competition, thanks a potent blend of hard work, money and prurience. At its worst, it combines the cynicism of a brothel madame with the self-righteousness of a lynch mob.

After examining the phone tapping scandal, he concludes, rather sadly:

Is it naive, though, to feel a certain melancholy that Mr Cameron should rely so heavily on a man who ran the News of the World, of all tabloids? It is more than just another newspaper. Even by the standards of the tabloids, it is capable of unusual cruelty and unfairness in the pursuit of a few column inches. Alongside the villains it boasts of exposing, its victims include numerous ordinary Britons whose only crime was to be considered newsworthy for a few moments on a given Sunday. Where all that fits into Mr Cameron's vision of a Big Society is something of a mystery.

Just observations, both.


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