Hacking scandal:Trevor,You don’t have to bribe people to get scoops

The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh: Defender of the Press? Pic courtesy : digitalhen

Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s most vociferous associate editor, has launched an extraordinary attack on the police operations which led to the arrest of a number of very senior Sun journalists. Using language I normally associate with my former employer, The Guardian, he condemns the police for disproportionate action and speaks of a police state and witch hunts against News International. (See http://bit.ly/we4MKo )

 My heart bleeds for him in one sense. Yes, you are right, it doesn’t take dawn raids and 20 police officers to arrest one unfortunate Sun hack. As far as I know they are not the equivalent of armed drugs gang. I am sure you wrote lots of articles in the Sun condemning the tactics of the Scotland Yard’s  former  assistant commissioner, John Yates, when he used the same approach against Lord Levy and Blair’s Downing Street staff in the ” Cash for Honours ” investigation. (this needed investigating but some of the tactics were disproportionate.)

Where I do quarrel with him is his implication that somehow allegations of bribing police officers ( which I gather is the reason for all this) is an essential tool of journalism to expose scandals to save Britain from turning into a corrupt cesspit.

It isn’t. If you think so it sends out all the wrong messages and puts journalism in the dock – and encourages a culture where money is the main motive and moral outrage irrelevant.

Without meaning to be pompous, I have just managed to get by in a long journalist career without paying anyone ( other than professional journalists who are making a living from passing on information) and still produced the odd exclusive.

I may appear to be naive at times but nobody needed paying to expose the ” cash for questions” scandal in the 1990s nor that Peter Mandelson had taken an undeclared £373,000 home loan from a  fellow minister.

Nor did any money change hands in the latest scandal of Ed Lester, the student loans company chief, and his tax affairs – just one  morally outraged source, a few beers, and a well targeted freedom of information request.

Of course, not all leaks are based on moral outrage. Base motives and deadly sins could be involved. By removing money from the equation – it gets rid of one motive and also stops people ” over egging” the information to make more cash.

My main disagreement with you is there has been something wrong in the practice of journalism and it does need cleaning up. I haven’t a clue whether these journalists  are guilty or innocent – or in doing their jobs have been corrupted by a culture that ended up being corrupt itself.

But I think you are being a little too disingenuous to suggest the fabric of investigative journalism is about to collapse because of these actions. There are many other practices  – not least the current financial collapse of newspapers – that are much more deadly.

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