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Independent backs Paul Dacre’s press card proposal

February 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Paul Dacre giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry yesterday

The Independent has supported Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s suggestion to create a register of accredited journalists and toughen up access to the press card.

In a leader article today, the paper agreed that the “kitemark” system had potential, claiming: “Some information sources are more reliable than others.”

Mr Dacre was right that the idea that journalists should be licensed by the state is repellent to the fundamentals of press freedom. But there is merit in his suggestion for a body replacing, or sitting alongside, the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be charged with the wider upholding of media standards.

One of its functions might be the issuing of a press card which could be suspended or withdrawn from individuals who gravely breach those standards. And while some people will argue that a kitemark for professional journalism might threaten freedom of expression in an age when much news and comment originates with bloggers and social networks, there is no danger to that freedom in giving the public what might be called a quality reassurance. Some information sources are more reliable than others.

Dacre admitted yesterday that he hadn’t given much thought to whether digital journalists would be eligible for the scheme.

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh says Dacre’s proposal risks pushing bloggers “right to the fringes of the system

Meanwhile, where would foreign media, with their own rules, fit in? Nor is it certain that a Dacrecard system would be effective. Whilst some of the reporting closed shops, most obviously the political lobby, confer benefits, being outside it does not hamper quality political journalism. It could be surprisingly easy to make a mockery of the Dacrecard system.

TheMediaBlog agrees:

This self-serving suggestion is a clear attempt to ostracise whole swathes of the predominantly online media industry who would eat Dacre’s lunch given half the chance.

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Mr Justice Eady speech in full

March 11th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Journalism

To the surprise of some, it was Mr Justice Eady who took the platform for a speech on freedom of expression in the context of human rights law last night, to mark the launch of City University London’s new centre for Law, Justice and Journalism.

The high court judge is known for his judgements that led to big media payouts to Max Mosley, Madonna and Tiger Woods for breaches of privacy, and for the many libel cases over which he has presided. In a speech in 2008, the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre said that Eady was bringing in a “privacy law by the back door.”

We have uploaded Eady’s speech in full, below:

Justice Eady Speech – City University London – March 2010

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PCC rules Daily Mail not in breach of code over Iain Dale diary piece

November 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that the Daily Mail was not in breach of clause 12 (discrimination) with a diary piece that described blogger and aspiring Conservative candidate Iain Dale ‘overtly gay’.  Commenting on Dale’s bid for the parliamentary constituency of Bracknell, the piece said it was ‘charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause’.  Dale lodged a complaint, claiming that the references were pejorative and the article homophobic, the PCC noted.

Today the PCC reported:

“The Commission could understand why the complainant found the comments to be snide and objectionable.  However, it did not rule that there had been a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code.  It noted that the item had used no pejorative term for the complainant, nor had it ‘outed’ him.  In the Commission’s view, the piece was uncharitable, but – in the context of a diary column, known to poke fun at public figures – was not an arbitrary attack on him on the basis of his sexuality.

“The Commission said that: ‘where it is debatable – as in this case – about whether remarks can be regarded solely as pejorative and gratuitous, the Commission should be slow to restrict the right to express an opinion, however snippy it might be.  While people may occasionally be insulted or upset by what is said about them in newspapers, the right to freedom of expression that journalists enjoy also includes the right – within the law – to give offence.'”

In the wake of the Jan Moir episode at the end of last month, a petition to Gordon Brown was launched, questioning the impartiality of the PCC and calling for its replacement by a public body. The PCC’s deputy director (and soon-to-be director) Stephen Abell subsequently defended the position of Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, as head of its code committee.

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Nick Davies told Commons committee in April that PCC phone hacking inquiry flawed

July 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

You may recall that back in April Nick Davies gave evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, for its review into press standards, privacy and libel.

In the course of that session he claimed there was ‘a real will on the part of the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking’ and that newspapers still used private investigators: “It is wrong but they are not doing anything about it and that continues despite Motorman [investigation undertaken by the Information Commissioner's Office into alleged offences under data protection legislation.] All that has happened is that they have got a little bit more careful about it. I actually got to know that network of private investigators who were exposed in Motorman. Years after that I was in the office of one of them and he was taking phone calls from newspapers while I was there.”

The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said: “We did do an investigation both into Motorman and into Goodman so I do not want to revisit old ground too much”.

The same committee which today announced it will open a new inquiry ‘into the Guardian revelations about the use of illegal surveillance techniques by News International newspapers’ (Guardian.co.uk).

Yesterday Nick Davies’ Guardian exclusive – which reported Murdoch papers paid £1m to silence victims of phone hacking – alleged that the evidence posed difficult questions for the PCC: it has ‘claimed to have conducted an investigation, but failed to uncover any evidence of illegal activity,’ it was reported.

Davies is no friend of the Press Complaints Commission – as reported on Journalism.co.uk before – and used his appearance in front of the committee in April to argue that the ‘PCC’s performance is so weak that it threatens the concept of self-regulation.’

The PCC has stated today, in light of the new reports, that ‘any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay.’

Now, let’s look back at Davies’ comments in the Commons in April (from uncorrected evidence on House of Commons site). Davies laid the bait for us all, but it would seem only he pursued his allegations against News of the World, to secure yesterday’s scoop:

Mr Davies: It is that word that Roy [Greenslade] has just used that is the important one, their independence. They [PCC] are not sufficiently independent to do their job properly; they are not functioning as an independent referee. You could see it, for example, in the way they handled the Clive Goodwin [sic] story. There are newspapers publishing stories all over Fleet Street; there is a whole lot of hacking going on, hacking into mobile phones. They conducted an inquiry which was set up in such a way that it could not possibly disclose the truth about that illegal activity. Why? Why did they not conduct a proper, independent inquiry? It was the same with the information commissioner after Operation Motorman. We used the Freedom of Information Act on the information commissioner and got hold if the e-mails and letters between the commissioner and the Press Complaints Commission. You can see there the information commissioner saying, “Look, we have just busted this private eye. It is horrifying what newspapers are doing. Will you put out a clear warning to these journalists that they must obey the law?” The short answer was, “No, not if we can help it”. You may be familiar with all this —–

Q435 Chairman: We had an inquiry into Motorman.

Mr Davies: Did you have the e-mails and so on?

Q436 Chairman: We had representatives of News International and so on.

(…)

Mr Davies: Also, when he [Paul Dacre] goes into hospital to have operations on his heart, there is always a message sent round Fleet Street saying, “Mr Dacre’s in hospital, please do not report it”. Medical records are supposed to be plundered by Harry Hack with beer on his breath and egg on his tie. It is wrong but they are not doing anything about it and that continues despite Motorman. All that has happened is that they have got a little bit more careful about it. I actually got to know that network of private investigators who were exposed in Motorman. Years after that I was in the office of one of them and he was taking phone calls from newspapers while I was there. It has not stopped; it has just got a bit more careful. It had got so casual that every reporter in the newsroom was allowed to ring up and commission illegal access to confidential information, now they have pulled it back so that you have to get the news editor to do it or the news desk’s permission. It is still going on and it is against the law.

Q446 Paul Farrelly: Do you think the PCC missed a trick with its own standing reputation in not summoning Mr Coulson?

Mr Greenslade: I wrote at the time and have maintained ever since that the Goodman affair was a very, very black moment in the history of the PCC. This man was jailed for breaking the law. His editor immediately resigned but there were huge questions to ask about the culture of the News of the World newsroom which only the man in charge of that newsroom could answer. When I challenged the PCC about why they had failed to call Mr Coulson they said that he was no longer a member of the press. That seems to me to be a complete abnegation of the responsibilities of the PCC for the public good. In other words, to use a phrase Nick has already used, it was getting off with a technicality.

Mr Davies: If you say to Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.

Q447 Chairman: We did do an investigation both into Motorman and into Goodman so I do not want to revisit old ground too much.

Mr Davies: It is what it tells you about the PCC.

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More from Dacre: The Daily Mail editor on Max Mosley and ‘Flat Earth News’

April 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has made his thoughts about Justice Eady, the Human Rights Act and the Max Mosley privacy case against the News of the World pretty clear since giving his Society of Editors speech last year, but today he was given the chance to follow up on Mosley’s own comments to the commons select committee on press standards, privacy and freedom.

(And have his say he was most definitely going to – reminding the committee several times of the length of time they’d given Mosley to speak, until one member asked whether he felt he was being treated differently?)

“Mr Mosley, when he gave evidence to this committee, I was very surprised at the soft time you gave him,” said Dacre.

“For Max Mosley to present himself as a knight in shining armour, proclaiming (…) sanctimonious, self-righteousness is almost a surreal inversion of the normal values of civilised society.”

It’s ‘a bit like the Yorkshire ripper campaigning against men who batter women’, he added.

The ruling against the News of the World and in favour of Mosley made the government’s stance on brothels and prostitution problematic, he said.

While brothels are seen by the government as ‘unacceptable and totally wrong’ and requiring a law to prosecute the people that run them, ‘Justice Eady has said Mosley’s behaviour is merely unconventional not illegal’, said Dacre.

“One legitimises the other,” he said.

The Daily Mail would not have broken the Mosley story, because it is a family paper, he said, even if it had ‘fallen into the paper’s lap’ as one committee member suggested. However, Dacre said he would defend the NOTW’s right to publish it.

Nick Davies

Today’s hearing was also a chance for Dacre to respond to claims made by journalist and ‘Flat Earth News’ author Nick Davies at a committee session on Tuesday.

Summised by the committee chair, Davies said the Daily Mail was characterised by a level of ruthless aggression and spite far greater than any other newspaper in Fleet Street.

“Davies is one of those people who sees conspiracy in everything. Like many people who write for the Guardian he believes he is the only one who can claim the moral high ground,” said Dacre.

“The book doesn’t do himself or our industry any justice.”

The book, he added, had been written ‘without the basic journalistic courtesy of checking the allegations concerned’.

Dacre accepted that there is some ‘churnalism’ of press releases at a provincial and national level – driven largely by poor finances and lack of resources, but said he refutes the charge of the Daily Mail.

“I’d suggest the Daily Mail is both famous and infamous for taking Whitehall and government press releases and going behind them. Certainly our reporters when they get freelance copy make their own inquiries and take them further,” he said.

“Our spending on journalism today is as great as ever, despite the recession. Mr Davies makes a valid point about some areas of the media. I think strong areas of the media, including some of our competitors, are not guilty of this charge.”

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MediaGuardian: Commons committee hears from Mosley and McCann

“Formula one boss Max Mosley today attacked the Press Complaints Commission and the newspaper industry’s system of self-regulation while criticising the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, chairman of the PCC editors’ code committee,” reports MediaGuardian here.

During the same hearing of the culture, media and sport committee currently looking into UK press regulation and media law, Gerry McCann “called for more stringent regulation of the press and slammed coverage surrounding the disappearance of his daughter in Portugal in 2007, calling it some of the most ‘irresponsible and damaging’ in press history,” MediaGuardian also reports here.

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NUJ jobs crisis summit round-up – ‘Murdoch and Dacre have brought us into disrepute’

January 26th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Job losses

Saturday saw around 150 gathered for the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) job crisis summit, part of a union-wide campaign against job cuts and pay freezes in the industry.

Speaking at the summit, Flat Earth News author and journalist Nick Davies called upon journalists to be ‘whistleblowers on our own newsrooms':

“We need to tell the public the impact of the job cuts on newsgathering,” he said in a report on the NUJ website.

“The public must know that the corporations have taken over the newsrooms and ransacked them for profit and that is why readers have lost trust in us.

“We need to improve the status of journalists. We are not trusted; we are not liked, because we are misperceived. The best known people in journalism are people like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, who have brought us into disrepute.”

Exposing flaws in managements’ running of newsrooms and putting state aid into the hands of journalists and not corporations would help provide a practical solution to a financial problem, he added.

The union will launch a campaign of lobbying MPs and local authorities, protests and possible industrial action, legal challenges to staff cuts and workplace issues, and a public debate of the situation.

The meeting called on the NUJ’s general secretary, Jeremy Dear, to meet with employers on a national level, and speak with ministers about media ownership regulation:

“This meeting believes the economic model practised by media employers over recent years – a sub-prime media market – is dead. It is scoops, quality editorial content, strong images and an engaged readership which will see media survive and flourish not retrenchment and soaring executive pay,” a motion ruled by the meeting said.

“This meeting further believes that light touch media regulation and the weakening of media ownership laws has led to an unhealthy consolidation of media ownership.

“Many media owners continue to show they have no coherent strategy that can secure a viable future for media in print, broadcast or online.”

Also discussed: chapels must include freelancers, casuals and contributors in activity and agreements surrounding cutbacks.

The summit also acknowledged the wider global crisis in the industry and pledged to work with both other UK industry unions, such as BECTU and UNITE, and international representatives.

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Comment is Free: Polly Toynbee says that ‘Judge Dacre’, the nation’s ‘bully-in-chief’ gives little justice

November 11th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

‘Dacre never dares face his critics, happy to fry alive all and sundry, never apologising, never explaining’, writes Polly Toynbee in the Guardian.

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Poll: Is Paul Dacre right to criticise Justice Eady’s use of the privacy law?

November 10th, 2008 | 5 Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has caused some controversy this morning after last night’s opening speech at the Society of Editors annual conference – leading to discussion on the Today programme – and widespread media coverage.

He says it is undemocratic that Justice Eady has repeatedly used the privacy law to prevent newspaper coverage of certain issues: he says the High Court judge has brought a privacy law in through the back door. Furthermore, he says it undermines newspaper sales…

“The British press is having a privacy law imposed on it, which apart from allowing the corrupt and the crooked to sleep easily in their beds is, I would argue, undermining the ability of mass-circulation newspapers to sell newspapers in an ever more difficult market.”

Read the full speech here, or a report from the conference here. You can follow @journalism_live on Twitter for more updates from Bristol. So… it’s over to you: click through to vote in our poll:
More »

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SoE08: Paul Dacre’s speech – in pictorial form

November 10th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers

Paul Dacre’s speech, which opened the Society of Editor’s annual conference, in Wordle form:

http://www.wordle.net/. Images of Wordles are licensed Creative Commons License.

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