Ian Hislop is one of my favourite “public” people.
Although only in his early fifties, he has edited the British satirical magazine “Private Eye” for over twenty-five years. Hislop even as a twenty-something editor in the 1980s, he gave the impression of being a “young fogey” a soberly dressed young man who knew nothing or pretended to know nothing about popular culture……..eg music, celebrity and sport. He is a humourist, journalist, satirist, practising Christian who is a bit of a curmudgeon (his public persona). ……actually on reflection Ian Hislop appears to be a lot like me. Which is probably why I like him.
I am an avid reader of “Private Eye“. Essentially “Lord Gnomes Organ” (as it styles itself the main and only title in the fictional Lord Gnome’s media empire) is a fortnightly satirical magazine which is compulsory reading for those that want to know is really going on in British public life. It is, in some respects the house magazine of British journalism……publishing some stories which might be “spiked” by editors motivated by commercial or political interests, gossiping about the media and politics industry as well as exposing financial scandals in the “City of London”.
Hislop has for more than twenty years been a team captain on the regular satirical television show “Have I Got News For You” and a shrewd if tetchy commentator on public life. Hmmm he is more even more like me than I thought.
But I think like all satirists, there is a judgemental streak in him. Yes……even more like me.
But I was disappointed in Ian Hislop’s performance on last Fridays “Have I Got News For You”. The Leveson Inquiry featured heavily. Hislop has done much in the past to expose the shortcomings of Journalism….particuarly the tabloid variety. “Private Eye” refers to “The News of the World” as “The News of the Screws” a reference to its emphasis on tacky, celebrity sex stories…….so it was disappointing that Hislop seemed to think that the Leveson Inquiry was unnecessary……an Inquiry set up as a knee jerk reaction to a public outcry……which would jeopardise Press Freedom. With some justification, he said that laws ALREADY exist to deal with many of the excesses including phone hacking. And the real issue was why these laws had not been enforced. A fair enough point.
But where Hislop went wrong was in saying that the entire scandal particuarly the revelations about the Milly Dowler phone hacking) had been brought o the attention of people by…..a Journalist.
This was of course a reference to Nick Davies of The Guardian. As I type this Davies is giving evidence before the Leveson Inquiry. It is on lunch adjournment.
This of course is true but is it a cause for celebration that one reporter blew the lid on the shabbier side of Fleet Street. A few years back “The News of the World” was quick to claim that phone hacking had been the work of one “rogue reporter” (ie Clive Goodman)….a piece of nonsense which was siezed on by the rest of the (tabloid) Press to close down a wider discussion……a defence that was worn away by constant new information culminating in Davies’ exclusive about Milly Dowler in July this year. The words “rogue reporter” are now discredited.
But my point here is that Nick Davies was effectively a more credible “rogue reporter”. He rather than Goodman was an exception to Fleet Street’s shabby ethics.