It’s week six of the Leveson inquiry, and I for one have stopped following the details. The precise circumstances in which Piers Morgan got to hear recordings of conversations between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney is a topic that will fascinate few of us.
Yet my guess would be that the proceedings will so far have added little lustre to the image of the trade I call my own.
The very expression ‘tabloid journalism’ conjures up mental images of shamelessly unscrupulous quote-fabricating, foot in the door merchant reporters who will stop at nothing to get the skinny on celebrity nookie or murder most foul.
That the News of the World now seems not to have deleted Milly Dowler’s mobile phone messages after all is almost irrelevant, now that contention has firmly established itself in the public mind.
Undeniably, Britain’s popular press has always had its scurrilous and salacious aspect. Tits, bums, randy vicars and adulterous politicians have for decades been part of the mix.
Yet it is worth pointing out that, at its best, popular journalism is capable of being so much more than that. Socialists have in the past been able to take advantage of the mass circulation tabloids command to expose abuses of power in front of the very audience with a material interest in such information.
Such possibilities have greatly diminished, not least on account of the malign influence of News International, in a media landscape very different from what it once was. But even now it would be wrong to deride the red tops and middle market titles out of hand.
Given the need for such publications to reflect the wider mood, if only through a desire to sell, the years ahead could see more mass media outlets open to the left than we have seen for some time.