One of the main directions taken by journalism in the past few decades has been an ever-deeper interest in private lives and in confidential information. The reporting of news is now commodified: increasingly, hard-pressed newspapers, magazines and TV news divisions look to revelations of scandal, or of secrets unmasked, to provide an income. The market for gossip and scandal, especially sex scandal, has grown greatly with the rise of the Internet and now constitutes an area of the media at once popular and at times politically powerful, or destructive.
The phone hacking at the News of the World - and more broadly – showed how desperate and driven was the search by popular newspapers in the UK for exclusive information on the private lives, both of the famous and of ordinary people caught up in a media frenzy. It revealed both widespread criminality and, on the part of the senior executives of the holding company News International, an unhealthy relationship with senior politicians, in which they were cowed into acquiescence with the group’s objectives and policies in order to retain their support.
But this was only one, criminal but logical, extension of the need for secrets. The transparency demanded by the news media has been served in various ways – in part through the adoption of Freedom of Information legislation, in part through the huge increase of the exchange of personal details and news through social media, in part through the leaking of secret information, in which Wikileaks has played the highest profile role and poses the largest challenge to authority at every level.
Scandal! reveals the nature of one of the major trends of our time, and tells the stories of those laying down the lines of its development.
A vivid re-assertion of journalism’s animating civic and ethical responsibilities,
perfectly timed for the biggest upheaval in British journalism for generations.
Professor of Digital Economy, Cardiff University
This is a hugely intelligent and thought-provoking survey of the moral crisis in modern media. From phone-hacking, to WikiLeaks to Gawker, Lloyd asks tough questions about the ethical and civic purpose of journalism and the need for a revelatory, critical but responsible news media.
Director of POLIS, LSE
John Lloyd is Director of Journalism at the Reuters Institute, a Contributing Editor to the Financial Times and Director of the Axess Programme on Journalism and Democracy.