By Paul Breeden
One of the most influential critics of the British press is speaking in Bristol this month in an event which is sure to add to the debate on the crisis facing the media industry.
Nick Davies, author of the much-acclaimed Flat Earth News, and the journalist whose reports accused the News of the World of hacking the phone messages of celebrities, visits the city on November 26.
His talk is entitled Bad News: What’s Wrong With The Press, and is delivered as part of the Benn Lecture series organised by Bristol NUJ since 2006.
The Benn Lectures aim to open debate about the vital media issues of our time.
All over the UK, newspapers are shedding staff and lowering standards as circulations plummet and advertising revenue falls; there has never been a more vital time for this debate, and there is no-one better qualified to lead it than Nick.
Nick Davies has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year for his investigations into crime, drugs, poverty and other social issues. In The Guardian in July 2009 he exposed the News of the World’s involvement in hacking the phone messages of celebrities.
He said there was evidence the practice was not limited to one reporter, Clive Goodman, who had already been jailed for hacking the voicemails of members of the royal household.
The Guardian revealed in July that News International had also made secret payments totalling more than £1m to victims of the practice, including Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, in an apparent attempt to secure their silence.
The controversy was reopened on November 9 with a report by the Press Complaints Commission which said the Guardian story on the affair had produced no fresh evidence of widespread phone hacking.
The PCC also suggested that the Guardian stories “did not quite live up to … [their] dramatic billing”.
In response The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called the PCC report “worse than pointless”. The PCC had not contradicted anything The Guardian said, yet it had not interviewed the people who might have helped the investigation, he said.
Mr Rusbridger said the press regulator – which has no legal powers and is appointed by the newspaper industry – was in the “last chance saloon”.
Nick Davies said the PCC report had “failed to dislodge a single factual claim in our story about the News of the World”. The only damage the PCC was likely to do would be to its own credibility, he said.
Nick Davies’s 2008 book Flat Earth News exposes “churnalism” – the practice by which the media recycles press releases and “sponsored” items of news because a lack of resources is drastically limiting old-fashioned investigative journalism. The book lifts the lid on falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.
Flat Earth News won the first Bristol Festival of Ideas book award in May 2009, given for a book which “presents new, important and challenging ideas”.
Bristol NUJ and the Arnolfini are delighted to have Nick with us in Bristol as the 2009 Benn Lecturer.
The Benn Lecture 2009 takes place at 7pm on Thursday November 26. It’s at the Arnolfini, Narrow Quay, Bristol BS14QA; 0117 917 2300; www.arnolfini.org.uk.
Tickets are £7.00 or £5.00 for concessions and NUJ members.
Bristol NUJ Lecture Series: http://www.bristolnuj.org.uk/bennlectures
Photos from previous Benn Lectures: http://www.bristolnuj.org.uk/category/photos/
Press Complaints Commission: http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NjAyOA==
Filed Under: Branch News