So much for the silly season. Today’s scoop in The Grauniad about phone tapping at the News of the World has been described by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil as nothing less than the “most significant of our time” (and he should know).
Murky waters these and some of the biggest names in print media, including my former classmate Rebekah Wade (it was Rebecca when I knew her) appear to be up to their neck in it. There are several fascinating questions about the role of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in particular, but for media watchers one of the key ones is how other News International titles, in particular The Times, are going to react to this story.
Murdoch’s empire does not have a good track record in this regard. Witness the total refusal to run anything during the last but one NOTW related scandal back in 2003, namely the collapse of the Victoria Beckham kidnapping case (remember that?) which was ultimately referred to the Attorney General and was widely covered by all the other broadsheets.
Currently, The Times is running an item on Cameron’s backing of former NOTW editor Andy Coulson, who is the Tory chief’s communications adviser, following a “just the facts” story in this morning’s hard copy paper. But, the real question is whether Murdoch will give the paper its freedom to really go after this story by unleashing its investigative journalists and commentators. If this story mushrooms (and I think it will) while The Times sits on the sidelines it could totally undermine its credibility as a serious newspaper. One to watch.