Back Issues 04.11.04


Tory peer Lord Wakeham was about to be appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and was already catching flak from Labour MPs. Shadow heritage spokesman Chris Smith told Press Gazette: “It seems to me that any politician, and particularly a retired Conservative cabinet minister, is not going to have the robust independence of view which is needed in a very crucial job like this.” However, one PCC member claimed Wakeham would “give good sound bites and stand up to a grilling on Newsnight .”


The Sun celebrated its 25th anniversary since being relaunched by Rupert Murdoch in rude health. Sales were more than four million, making it the country’s top daily. There was a presentation to 16 staff who had joined Murdoch’s Sun in 1969 and were still on the paper.


A poll for Press Gazette showed journalists were split on the ethics of Guardian editor Peter Preston sending a fake fax, which purported to be on House of Commons notepaper, when investigating Treasury Chief Secretary Jonathan Aitken. In the MORI poll news editors in newspapers, magazines and broadcasting had narrowly come down against the fake fax. MORI chairman Bob Worcester said: “This is a surprising finding as it’s neither dog-eat-dog nor blind support for a colleague. It splits the British media down the middle.”


Northcliffe Newspapers’ managing director Ian Park was concerned that regional editors were losing contact with their readers. Speaking at the Guild of Editors conference, he asked: “How many editors in this room, I wonder, have recently been anywhere near a council house as they power-steer themselves from the golf club to their office?” Former ITN journalist Sandy Gall, speaking at the same Guild conference, described the tabloid press as: “the mental equivalent of junk food and as toxic as leaded petrol”.
He added: “We have to have some sort of curbs on the bandit and gangster behaviour of the popular press.”


A defence lawyer slammed the press when unsuccessfully defending his crack dealer client who had been exposed by Bedfordshire on Sunday. Bernard Tatlow told the jury: “the whole case relies on the evidence of one journalist – a member of one of the professions that is ranked, in the public’s opinion, pretty close to the bottom. ‘Don’t believe anything you read in the papers’ may be a
cliché, but that doesn’t mean it is not an accurate one”. BoS editor Andrew Kelly welcomed the guilty verdict. “Not bad for a
free Sunday newspaper to take out a crack dealer,” he said.


John Witherow was finally confirmed as editor of the Sunday Times . He had been acting editor for six months after Andrew Neil had left for the US Fox current affairs show, Full Disclosure. Witherow’s appointment came as it was announced Full Disclosure was being axed. Neil was the third national newspaper editor to leave News International in 1994. The others were Pa tsy Chapman at the News of the World and Kelvin MacKenzie at The Sun .


The Sun operated a strict smart dress code for its reporters. So strict that reporter Damian Lazarus was sacked for not wearing a tie. Lazarus was told to leave the office after the editor had spotted him tieless when he was door-stepping the Football Association.

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