Former News of the World editor Colin Myler has called on broadcasters, broadsheets and tabloid newspapers to unite or else face a ‘gloomy and grim future”.
At the Leveson Inquiry this morning Myler – who was editor of the NoW when it was closed in July due to the phone-hacking scandal – admitted it was time for the industry to ‘reflect on certain matters of decency”.
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‘I know there might be some guffaws of moral indignation that the former editor of the News of the World can be talking in these terms but that actually is what I believe,’he said.
‘I think we might… Be a better industry for that reflection, and I do believe that reflection has actually taken place.”
Lord Justice Leveson said he had no ‘no doubt’newspapers had reflected on the ethical issues facing the industry in recent months – and said this was evidenced in PR guru Max Clifford’s interview in The Times today.
In it, Clifford said he had two ‘major stories’in recent weeks ‘which newspaper editors would be running over burning coals to get if the Leveson inquiry wasn’t going on”.
‘There are no illegal methods involved in obtaining either story but the editors are worried about anything that touches on the private lives of the rich and famous,’he said.
‘They are thinking ‘how would Leveson respond to this’ rather than ‘that’s a bloody good story, let’s get it in the paper’.
‘They are also worried about upsetting their readers because the Leveson Inquiry has heard damaging accusations from the parents of Madeleine McCann and Milly Dowler as well as from stars about how information for stories was obtained.
‘Readers have become more aware of how the press gets its stories and editors are frightened.”
A dysfunctional industry
Myler told the inquiry that one of the things it had brought to the public’s attention was the ‘despicable way, in some respects, that some members of this profession have behaved”, but said it would be ‘desperately unfair’for people to believe every journalist had behaved that way.
‘We are in an industry, historically, that’s quite dysfunctional,’said Myler.
‘The competition between us, not just commercial but in terms of getting the most, the best story, is such that we’re not very good at even coming together to agree in saluting the great and the good.’
As an example he referenced the annual British Press Awards – where ‘you go into a judging session sometimes and it’s almost like a warzone, you have the broadsheets on one side and the tabloids on the other”.
‘The saddest thing is the collective brain power amongst those who produce newspapers is pretty magnificent, and if only they could drop some of that commercial rivalry, understand and face the problems and issues that affect all of them.
‘This is not about broadsheet, broadcast media against the redtops. These are issues that affect all of them.”
Myler then claimed that unless they united and engaged with the courts, judiciary and politicians, the industry faced a ‘pretty gloomy and grim future”.
Bombs under the newsroom floor’
Earlier in the session Myler said he feared there were “bombs under the newsroom floor” when he took over the editorship of the paper in 2007, in a reference to alleged illegal practices.
Myler told the inquiry: “It’s fair to say that I always had some discomfort and at the time I phrased it as that I felt that there could have been bombs under the newsroom floor.
“And I didn’t know where they were and I didn’t know when they were going to go off.
“That was my own view. But trying to get the evidence or establishing the evidence that sadly the police already had was another matter.”
But he went on to say he did not believe phone-hacking took place when he was editor, and that he was under the impression the police investigation into private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and former royal editor Glive Goodman – who were both jailed for phone-hacking in 2007 – had not uncovered evidence against other journalists.
“Given what I believed to be a thorough police investigation throughout that period, and the fact that the police had not interviewed any other member of staff from the News of the World other than Mr Goodman, I think that weighed heavily on my mind,” he said.
“I assumed that they would have done so if they had any kind of evidence or reason to speak to somebody else.”