Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Desperate Defences of The Sun and Telegraph

Both the Sun and Telegraph newspapers have launched vigorous defences of their reporting over the Mitchell affair and have sought to turn the limelight away from their own close relationship with the police informers who gave them the story originally.

The Sun casts aspersions on reporter Michael Crick's objectivity, describing him snidely as 'a pal' of Mr. Mitchell who was due to meet up with him on the day of the incident (shock Sun revelation - political reporter meets senior politician); the Telegraph tries to claim that this is a new chapter in a sinister gagging of press freedom.

Neither paper's desperate pleas carries much weight.  The Sun also says that un-named 'observers' (presumably a couple of journos and interns in the Sun news office?) point out that the CCTV footage shows Mr Michell had more than enough time to make the comments he was accused of making.  Er, maybe.  But if so, he says them in a remarkably calm and controlled manner and without ever looking at the police officer escorting him to the side gate.  The CCTV footage on the Channel 4 report certainly doesn't suggest a flare-up, and as Mr. Mitchell pointed out, his body language simply doesn't match the attitude he is alleged to have shown.  It is also clear from the footage from another camera shown on Channel 4 that there was indeed only one, less than interested member of the public outside the gate - not the several claimed in the police report.  The Sun's report here is veering into parody.

As for the Telegraph, it persists in the belief that Mr. Mitchell was the principal malefactor here, and that Bernard Hogan-Howe, Met Commissioner, was utterly wrong to arrest a police officer involved in this incident.  Quite how the Telegraph squares this with the allegations that said officer posed as a member of the public, lied in an email to an MP about the incident, and possibly colluded with other officers in the compilation of a log that now looks as thin as a piece of Sun investigative reporting, isn't made clear.

The Channel 4 report by Michael Crick was pretty thorough and raised serious questions.  It is noticeable that the police have acted upon information in it rather than haul up their defences which they might have been expected to do.  The Police Federation has been busy back-tracking as fast as it can.  If there is anything sinister here, it is the possibility of a police fit-up of a man whose government they disagree with, and the unquestioning collusion of a couple of newspapers whose cosy relationship with the police force have rendered them eunuchs when it comes to serious investigative reporting.

It is, by the way, worth comparing the shrill defences of these two newspapers of their now questioned stories, to the way the BBC consistently places critical reports of its own organisation at the top of its news agenda - witness the appearance of the Savile investigation today.  Another plus for broadcast media?  

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