During the MP’s expenses scandal the media, and the printed media in particular, delighted in exposing various claims for porn movies, the costs of second homes and the cleaning of ponds. The public’s view of politicians was at an all time low. How dare they treat tax payers money in this way? Especially during a recession when everyone was finding it hard to make ends meet.
Now those same politicians, even some of the discredited ones who still hold office, are baying for the blood of the media as the phone hacking saga continues with shocking new daily revelations. The former editor of the News of The World has just been arrested by appointment – a process that certainly takes the fun out of the traditional dawn raid where doors are smashed aside with bright red enforcers. And of course there will be an inquiry and undoubtedly there will be some new regulations as a result.
I know many journalists and all of them are honest and equally horrified by what has been going on. In our internet and social media soaked world where there is information overload, sometimes I think that it would be good for journalists to be a little more investigative. Ask a few more questions rather than simply rewriting the hundreds of press releases they receive everyday. But if investigation crosses the line into illegal behaviour then that’s not the type of investigative journalism I want to see.
My concern is what the regulatory outcome of all of this will be. The MP’s expenses scandal reminds us that as well as reporting current events, that the press provides a sort of regulation of politicians on behalf of the public. On the whole MPs will be terrified that any indiscretion comes out in print and scuppers their hopes of re-election.
If the media becomes more heavily regulated then the freedoms they currently have to report potential wrong doings in the corridors of power might be eroded or curtailed. We have to punish those responsible for hacking the phones of victims of terrible crimes. But once that is done let the honest journalists carry on their work, otherwise we might find our politicians even less accountable to those they are meant to serve than they are now.