Alex Hern reports on the remarkable degree to which every tabloid manages to avoid reporting on its own implication in the phone hacking scandal.
The witness statements from yesterday’s hearing of the Leveson Inquiry made headlines across the press.
The Independent and Telegraph splashed with the heartbreaking statement from Milly Dowler’s mother that the News of the World’s hacking of her phone gave them false hope she was alive, while The Times and Guardian decided to focus instead on Hugh Grant’s testimony.
Amongst the tabloids, however, there were fewer front pages drawing attention to the inquiry – in fact, just one, from the Daily Mirror. The Sun, Mail and Express lead instead with, respectively, “Xbox Cyber Fraud”, a crackdown on store cards, and a blood pressure pill.
The real dodging of the story happens inside, however.
The Sun finally gets its chance to do a bit of finger-pointing with its headline:
“Hugh Grant: Mirror and Mail hacked me”
They do eventually get round to mentioning the involvement of the Sun’s sister title, the News of the World, in the horrendous emotional pain inflicted on the Dowlers.
The Mirror seems to disagree with the Sun about who exactly was hacking Grant – on their website, the link to video of the inquiry proclaims:
“Grant accuses paper of hacking: Actor Hugh Grant told the Leveson Inquiry that his phone may have been hacked by The Mail on Sunday.”
Their main story gives the same impression, miraculously avoiding the part of the testimony where Grant names the Mirror:
“Grant claimed that, as well as being told by police that the News of the World had hacked his phone, the Mail on Sunday had gathered private information about him.”
The Mail, however, takes the biscuit for avoiding the issue. Obviously, newspaper front pages have limited space, so it may be that they simply thought the crackdown on store cards was a more important story. The same can’t be said, however, for website front pages. The Daily Mail has 9,299 words on theirs.
Of those, 49 are devoted to the Dowlers’ testimony, and there is not a single mention of Hugh Grant or his allegations.
Clicking through will reveal the Grant story, as well as the Mail on Sunday’s strongly worded denial of his claims they published information that could only have been received through phone hacking.
“…utterly refutes Hugh Grant’s claim that they got any story as a result of phone hacking.
“In fact in the case of the story Mr Grant refers to the information came from a freelance journalist who had been told by a source who was regularly speaking to Jemima Khan. Mr Grant’s allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media.”
“MoS say a freelance journo heard story about “plummy voiced woman” from a source close to me. That’s not true as the 1st time I heard anything about this was when I read about it in the MOS.”
The Sun blames the Mirror, the Mirror blames the Mail, the Mail blames Jemima Khan, and the Guardian says ‘kill ’em all’ and let Murdoch sort it out. And that’s only the first day of the inquiry…
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• Dowler solicitor: News Int acting “like Soviet Union… you think the KGB are following you” – Shamik Das, November 8th 2011
• Leveson Inquiry hears of the ethical rot of Fleet Street – Alex Hern, October 7th 2011
• The NUJ is the solution to the sickness at News International – Ruwan Subasinghe, October 6th 2011
• Hugh Grant, Ed Miliband and Unite join to bury the Digger for good – Alex Hern, September 27th 2011
• Why have none of the tabloids led on Milly phone hack scandal? – Shamik Das, July 5th 2011