◼ BRITAIN’S BIGGEST-SELLING NEWSPAPER, the tabloid News of the World, closes tomorrow, a victim of its own phone-hacking scandal. First published 168 years ago, this hugely powerful title became the most toxic media brand in the land, all within the week. And much of the cause was down to the work of one investigative journalist, Nick Davies of The Guardian newspaper.
“ I have no doubt at all that Nick Davies is the greatest living British journalist ” — Peter Oborne, chief political commentator on the rival newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, speaking on Radio 4 tonight
Nick Davies is considered one of Britain’s leading investigative journalists. He has broken numerous stories, mostly for The Guardian. His scoops include the story about the nurse turned serial child murderer, Beverley Allitt, and the recent WikiLeaks revelations in classified US military and diplomatic documents. He it was who tracked down Julian Assange and persuaded him not to post his latest secrets on the WikiLeaks website but to hand them over to The Guardian. Among his published books, Flat Earth News accuses British newspapers of what he calls “churnalism”, churning out stories based entirely on PR, press releases or wire copy, without further fact-checking.
One irony is that in this year’s Society of Editors awards, Davies lost the award for News Reporter of the Year to Mazher Mahmood (the “Fake sheikh”) of the News of the World, whose winning submissions included exposing the Pakistan cricket match-fixing ring, and the claim that Fergie “sells” Andy for £500k. [Update July 10: In the NoW’s final issue, “crimebuster” Mahmood reminds us of the 250 successful prosecutions his investigations have achieved over 20 years, from paedophiles, arms dealers, drug peddlers and people traffickers to bent doctors and lawyers.]
Among the awards listed in his Debrett’s People of Today profile, Davies is cited as Feature Writer of the Year 1997, Journalist of the Year 1998, Reporter of the Year 1999, Martha Gellhorn Award 1999, European Journalism Prize 2003.
“ The Milly Dowler story changed the politics of the whole saga and made it impossible for anybody to defend the News of the World and that included the prime minister and the Tory leadership… And so they’ve switched sides, specifically on the question of whether there should be a public inquiry. ”
➢ Davies on pursuing the phone hacking investigation — on video at Guardian online
Davies decided to become an investigative journalist after seeing the brilliant film All the President’s Men, about the US journalists who cracked the Watergate conspiracy that brought down president Richard Nixon in 1973 and helped indict and jail numerous Nixon aides…
◼ OF ALL THE MOVIES ABOUT JOURNALISM the best by far is All the President’s Men. It tells the real-life story of how two young reporters on the Washington Post saw the corrupt American president Richard Nixon out of office. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the “Woodstein” team of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both hitting 30 when they pulled off their scoops about conspiracy in the White House. The Oscar-winning film is a gripping thriller that also gives the most authentic view of newspaper life yet, shot in an exact replica of the colour-coded Washington Post newsroom, built by knocking together two Warner soundstages in Burbank and ensuring all the coffee-cups and paperwork came from the real office 2,000 miles away.
Jason Robards won the 1976 Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his charismatic depiction of the executive editor Ben Bradlee. “WOODSTEIN!!! Get in here!” At the press screening this writer attended, he raised repeated cheers for his oh-so-true-to-life rigour as he harried the young reporters again and again when they failed to convince him they had the scoop of the century. Our hearts sank, along with theirs, as Bradlee took his pen to their report and deleted line after line after line. We’ve all had bosses like him. “Get some harder information.” – “We haven’t had any luck yet.” – “Get some.” This film excels for showing how good newspapers work.
◼ TODAY ON NEWSWEEK’S WEBSITE Pulitzer Prize-winning Carl Bernstein draws a comparison between Nixon’s downfall and the anything-goes approach of News of the World owner Rupert Murdoch and how it threatens to undermine the influence he so covets…
“ The hacking scandal currently shaking Rupert Murdoch’s empire will surprise only those who have wilfully blinded themselves to that empire’s pernicious influence on journalism in the English-speaking world. Too many of us have winked in amusement at the salaciousness without considering the larger corruption of journalism and politics promulgated by Murdoch Culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
“ The facts of the case are astonishing in their scope. Thousands of private phone messages hacked, presumably by people affiliated with the Murdoch-owned News of the World newspaper, with the violated parties ranging from Prince William and actor Hugh Grant to murder victims and families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. ”
➢ News of the World doubles print run to 5m for final issue and all proceeds go to charity — Sunday update: local shop sent 50 copies instead of its usual six. The website notw.co.uk will be free to the public all July 10