There is no easy route out of the mess left by the phone hacking scandal, but it should start with the public interestby George Brock / June 27, 2014 / Leave a comment
Rebekah Brooks may be free, but the industry she represents is long past its prime. © Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/Press Association Images
The end of this week’s phone-hacking trial was marked by claims both that this was the start of a new and better journalism, and that it was a great day for red-top journalism. Neither claim will stand even brief scrutiny until the much-battered and elusive idea of public interest is placed back at the heart of journalism.
Pundits proclaim new beginnings in journalism on a regular basis. Journalism turns corners all the time but rarely starts over. Journalism is energetically evolutionary for several reasons. The ideas which inspire us are the subject of perpetual dispute, both because power and influence are involved and because the economic, social and political context in which journalism is done never stands still.
Journalism sits at the intersection of democratic and moral purposes (“you really need to know this right now”) and the free market, which is the least-bad way of assuring independence. That junction is an inherently unstable place to be, and has been since journalism took a recognisable modern form in the middle of the 17th century.