Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Leveson vs MacKenzie

When Kelvin MacKenzie left the High Court yesterday and struck a Christ-like pose on the steps outside, it can only be hoped that his tone was something approaching deeply ironic. Unless he was doing an impression of Wayne Rooney after the over-head kick wonder strike against Man City, but after more grazing than training. The former editor of the Sun had been giving evidence in the continuing Leveson inquiry into press ethics, and to the casual observer at least, he did not appear to have any.

Speaking of his editorship between 1981 and 1994, he said; “I didn’t spend too much time pondering the ethics of how a story was gained, nor over-worry about whether it was published or not.” This foreign policy sold papers, but was not always as popular with his proprietor. Having informed Rupert Murdoch of the need to compensate Elton John, to the tune of £1 million, for a fabrication too far, his telephoned-ticking-off lasted nearly three quarters of an hour. But one imagines the media mogul’s motives were more money than morality minded, needless to say, creative copy-writing was not curtailed.

In a customarily bullish defence of the tabloid press, Kelvin Mackenzie claimed that some much maligned methods were as prevalent on broad-sheet publications, but unfairly attracted plaudits in place of punishment. By way of example, he offered the scenario of phone hacking Tony Blair, to prove he was “circumventing the cabinet” to take the country to war in Iraq. “If you publish it in the Sun you get six months’ jail,” he said, “and if you publish it in the Guardian you get a Pulitzer Prize.” He may have a point.

Further to the divide between broadsheet and red tops, he concluded that “there is a tremendous amount of snobbery involved in journalism.” He may have a set of points. But from which sordid source did this snobbery spring? Well, if you edit out breasts and football, and stories about folk whose only talent is the possession of one, or playing the other, then certain papers would just be a TV guide. Snobbery? Not Jesus, not even Rooney, but right on this occasion Mr MacKenzie.

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