Farewell to the Screws

Great piece by Steven Baxter - ex of SGS - on the New Statesman blog about the News of the World's demise. Baxter points out that the 'Screws' owes its destruction to a culture that it has itself helped to create and maintain - the "do something now even if we don't know all the facts" culture. It's a pretty devastating indictment of the levels to which the tabloid journalism espoused by the 'Screws' has fallen:

We don't know what the outcome will be of various investigations, inquiries and hearings, including the one overseen by Brooks herself at News International. But people couldn't wait for all that to unfold: they demanded something be done now. If they jumped the gun and jumped to conclusions based on limited evidence, they were only acting the way they had been taught to by the News of the World itself.

He goes on to elaborate:

"We will be passing our dossier to the police." Those words appeared at the end of News of the World investigations down the years, implying that readers should infer guilt on the part of whichever ne'er-do-well was being investigated that week, their wrongdoings exposed thanks to secret recording or other "dark arts". It created a culture in which an allegation became proof, a culture in which readers were invited to leap to conclusions. If people have done so this week, the News of the World can hardly condemn such behaviour.

It may be the methods rather than the substance of the News of the World's type of journalism that has caused its downfall, but as Baxter's article shows only too clearly, it is not always possible to separate the two. The News of the World may not have quite destroyed itself, but its parent, News International, is beginning like Saturn to consume its own children, and who knows where that might end.


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