Alex Hern covers the incredible cheek of the News of the World journalist Jules Stenson who accused Nick Davies of being a shoddy journalist.
Jules Stenson, the former head of features at the News of the World, and Nick Davies, the Guardian journalist who is largely responsible for blowing open the phone hacking story, clashed in spectacular fashion last night on Newsnight.
The conversation was sparked by the recent revelation by the Guardian that they had inaccurately accused the News of the World of deleting the messages from Milly Dowler’s phone that led to her parents being given false hope.
Stenson attempted to use this fact as a basis to attack Nick Davies personally for “shoddy journalism”. The phrase ‘pot calling kettle black’ seems to understate the irony of the matter.
Speaking on the stage of the debate today, Stenson said:
“I’m not here to – I don’t believe that the News of the World was exonerated, has been exonerated. What we did was indefensible, not just to Milly but to all the victims of hacking. I’m not here to justify that in any way.
“What I am here to do is attack the shoddy journalism of the Guardian and the shoddy journalism of Nick. He said it was accepted by everyone that this happened – read his original copy, there’s no acceptance of it.
“There’s a statement from News International at the end saying “we’re looking into this”, News International at that time was a rabbit caught in headlights. They’d clearly been caught out misleading people with the one rogue reporter theory and they weren’t going to make that mistake again. They weren’t confirming anything to anyone!”
When asked by Paxman whether this changed anything about the News of the World, Stenson repeated:
“There’s a perfectly good argument that the News of the World should be closed down. I’m not here to defend the News of the World, I’m here to attack Nick’s journalism.”
Throughout much of the rest of the piece, Davies and Stenson repeatedly clashed over Stenson’s accusations of impropriety on the part of Davies and the Guardian Media Group, with Stenson again repeating:
“Look, I’m not here to justify [hacking]. I don’t think the News of the World has been exonerated, I think there’s every… Um, you can justify the closure of the paper even. I’m not here to do that. I’m here to talk about the Guardian getting facts wrong, and the Guardian misrepresenting popular newspapers.”
Stenson is a reporter who has, as Davies revealed, been intimately tied up with a private detective who has broken the law chasing stories, and he worked for a paper which was shut down in disgrace after revelations of endemic criminality. Most people in such a situation would not think that it was the best time attack others.
Davies’ closing statements summed it up:
“You’re still playing the same tabloid distortion game.
“We publish more than a hundred stories, which are confirmed in evidence gathered by the police and at parliamentary inquiries and the Leveson inquiry and civil actions, and you pick on two errors – one of them very significant in the Milly Dowler story, one of them really minor in the Gordon Brown story – and you distort the truth and try to pretend that that means that we’re guilty of shoddy journalism.
“The distortion and the hypocrisy are unbelievable. You should take a leaf out of Rupert Murdoch’s book, just stop, or else just go quiet. People don’t believe you anymore, we’re not going to be bullied by you anymore, we’ve had enough of you.”
You can watch a video of entire exchange below:
Underscoring Davies’ statements, today Lucy Panton, the former crime editor of News of the World, has been arrested in the ongoing investigation into payments to the police for stories.
The Guardian reports:
Officers from Operation Elveden said that a 37 year old woman was arrested at 6.15am on Thursday at an address in Surrey and is the seventh person held under Scotland Yard’s probe into allegations of payments to the police.
It is understood from sources that the person arrested was Lucy Panton, who was taken to a south London police station where she remains in custody.
Finally, today the Leveson inquiry has been hearing today from Daniel Sanderson, the News of the World reporter who wrote the Kate McCann diary story.
Speaking to the inquiry, Sanderson admitted:
“With hindsight, it was clearly the wrong decision to publish.”
At least some can show contrition.
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• Leveson witnesses tell of the suicides caused by tabloid intrusion and lies – Shamik Das, November 25th 2011
• Tabloid hypocrisy shocker: “Aren’t those other papers nasty, with all that hacking?” – Alex Hern, November 22nd 2011
• 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