This week, Mr Justice Lindsay invited Hello! magazine into his beautifully appointed courtroom in The Strand.
But this visit to the inner sanctum of the wealthy and influential has been rather different than those to which the magazine is more usually accustomed. Rather than showing a sympathetic interviewer and photographer around his oak-panelled chambers, the judge is listening to the magazine’s evidence from the dock. He’ll be deciding whether the celebrity weekly should pay damages to Hollywood stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas for running unauthorised pictures of their lavish wedding in a New York hotel. They will be in court next week.
OK! had stumped up £1m for the right to publish the pictures and words the couple had approved – which, bizarrely, included airbrushing some guests out altogether.
When Hello!’s somewhat fuzzy, thoroughly unauthorised and certainly unapproved pictures appeared, they cried foul. Their privacy had been invaded, they sobbed. Their honeymoon ruined by their attempt at an injunction. Their human rights invaded.
So what better way to protect your privacy than a high-profile trial in full glare of the world’s media? Much has been made of the case’s impact on the development of a privacy law in this country.
But this isn’t really about privacy. Neither is it about money.
It’s about control. It’s about image. It’s about vanity.
Give credit where it’s due
Trust. The key word used by Lesley Oake, widow of murdered police officer Stephen Oake, about her local newspaper. It was because she trusted Macclesfield Express trainee journalist Fiona MacCartney that she called only her to talk about her grief. It was because she trusted that paper’s team that she knew her interview would be treated sympathetically and skilfully. It was because of that trust that she turned down large sums on offer for her exclusive.
Her syndicated interview then ran in most of the nationals. So what is it about Fleet Street lore that makes acknowledging another media source so difficult? Especially when that source is a regional newspaper that could hardly be considered a threat to them.
Full marks to The Daily Telegraph for acknowledging the Macclesfield Express when it ran MacCartney’s piece. No marks to the other nationals, all of which conspicuously failed to do so.