Attack dogs of the British press muzzled
Has Britain’s savage tabloid press lost its bite? For the moment, it would appear so.
HAS Britain’s savage tabloid press lost its bite?
For the moment, it would appear so.
The scale of the unsavoury, illegal practices used in the world’s most competitive newspaper market has left a nasty taste in the mouths of the British public.
So extreme has been the reaction that normally fearless Fleet Street editors have been turning down stories out of fear of a backlash from readers.
There has been precious little of the famous muck-raking and jaw-dropping exclusives in recent months.
The shock closure of the top-selling News of the World in July was the tipping point, rocking the British media’s confidence and the industry is still coming to grips with the new order.
Public relations guru Max Clifford, who is renowned for brokering some of the UK’s biggest scoops, said the loss of power had led to the most cautious news rooms in his time.
“The atmosphere is like I have never known it in 40 years,” he told The Times.
“The inquiry has already changed the face of tabloid journalism and in some ways is making newspapers behave more responsibly.
“Whether it’s for ever or not remains to be seen.”
A year ago it would have been unthinkable that the News of the World would collapse under the weight of public outrage.
Or that media heavyweights such as Rupert and James Murdoch would be so vigorously pursued and grilled by British politicians.
With Lord Justice Brian Leveson considering tightening regulations of the press in his ongoing inquiry, no editor is prepared to poke their head out of the trenches.
“There are two major stories that have come to me in recent weeks which newspaper editors would be running over burning coals to get if the Leveson inquiry wasn’t going on,” Clifford said.
“There are no illegal methods involved in obtaining either story but the editors are worried about anything that touches on the private lives of the rich and famous.
“They are thinking how would Leveson respond to this rather than `That’s a bloody good story, let’s get it in the paper’.
“They are also worried about upsetting their readers because the Leveson inquiry has heard damaging accusations from the parents of Madeleine McCann and Milly Dowler as well as from stars about how information for stories was obtained.
“Readers have become more aware of how the press gets its stories and editors are frightened of alienating them.
“They are worried that the big stories which previously gave them circulation gains might have the opposite effect in the current climate.”
How long the good behaviour lasts is harder to judge.
Especially with the financial pressures from dwindling sales and declining advertising revenue due to increased internet readership.
While the Leveson inquiry continues, Fleet Street’s famous tabloids will tread carefully.
It will be only in the months following Leveson’s report that we will know if the British tabloid beast has truly been tamed.