Rolf Harris sentencing made Saturday a good day to bury bad news about the jailing of a national newspaper editor - Press Gazette

Rolf Harris sentencing made Saturday a good day to bury bad news about the jailing of a national newspaper editor

Rolf Harris and Andy Coulson both took in their last breaths of free air for a while before their brief court appearances on Friday morning, and now both are locked up. Which matters more? The man everyone knew and who committed the greater crimes –  or the man at the heart of government that most could not name?

rolf harris front pages

For most of the papers it was no contest. Harris was the one people were interested in and, for some reason, it was regarded as a particular affront to his victims that he should choose to make his journey to court by river boat.

It was equally no surprise that the Guardian should choose to put Andy Coulson's photograph on its front. More surprising was the Independent, which had all five men up for sentencing for phone hacking across the top of page one.

Rolf Harris insides


Coulson insides


When it came to Coulson, the Independent followed up its front page pictures with a 12-13 spread, the Guardian put him on page nine and most managed a page lead. The Star led page two with it, producing a straight heading, five pictures and some good clean copy. The i put it at the foot of its Rolf Harris page. So far so predictable.
The News UK papers' coverage, however, is nothing short of a disgrace. Coulson makes page two in the Sun, as he does in the Daily Star – except that here the entire heading, story and picture takes about the same space as the heading on its redtop rival.
Coulson is at least the page two lead in the Times – but in a 'he's a good chap really' story about Lord Ashcroft offering him something under a million pounds to spill the beans on the Cameron administration. The Times must have savoured this opportunity, not only to paint Coulson in a more favourable light, but also to cast a shade over Ashcroft, with whom it has history. 

The court case could easily have been covered in this slot, but no, best to bury bad news. And so the reader is sent to page 31, way back behind the comment section and the Saturday jollies, to find the miscreant editor sitting atop a mermaid, with ne'er so much as a mugshot to keep the text company.

Throughout the dark days of July 2011 when the world was crashing down on News International, then Times editor James Harding did his utmost to report the hacking story developments honestly and fairly. Much good did it do him [James Harding was persuaded to resign as Times editor at the end of 2012].
Now the paper is showing its loyalty to the big boss rather than to its readers.

This isn't a case of a junior reporter being told off for being naughty; Coulson was successively editor of the country's biggest selling paper and spokesman for the Prime Minister. The activities on his watch and under his instruction led to the closure of that paper and have raised huge questions over David Cameron's judgment.

Suppose, just suppose, Alastair Campbell was sent to prison for some misdeed during his time as the Mirror's political editor. Where do we think the Times might put the story? Page 31? I think not.
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