As one of the cover quotes puts it, if even half of what Nick Davies writes in his expose of the news industry is true then things are truly terrifying. The stuff on Iraq, the neutering of the Sunday Times Insight team and the problems of “churnalism” have been covered elsewhere, so I won’t go into them here, but one of the things that really jumped out for me was the way in which newspaper regulation in the UK is stacked in favour of newspapers who play fast and loose with the truth, trampling people in the process.
The (newspaper-controlled) Press Complaints Commission dismisses the overwhelming majority of complaints without even investigating them, which means the only redress is via the courts. However, you can’t get legal aid for libel and newspapers’ deep pockets and expensive lawyers mean that you’ve got bugger-all chance of someone taking your case on a no-win no-fee basis. What that means in practice is that newspapers can falsely accuse you of anything, ruin your life and get away scot-free. Flat Earth News contains some horrifying examples of that.
Put it this way: this week’s apology to the McCanns by the Express and the Star was unusual not because of the scale of the apology, but because the McCanns hired Carter Ruck, the famous and famously expensive legal firm, to represent them. Most victims of newspaper falsehoods don’t have that option.