Hugh Grant: Investigative Reporter
from the funny-how-things-work dept
You may have heard of the big scandal story, that’s been going on for a bit in the UK, concerning reporters from Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World listening to voicemails of all sorts of people, in the course of their reporting. There had been earlier reports that it just targeted the royal family, but, last fall, reports came out that it was widespread and covered all sorts of famous people and people in the news. There have been questions about how much the government or law enforcement officials have been investigating this whole thing… so leave it to an unlikely investigative reporter to turn up some news: actor Hugh Grant, one of the people whose voicemail was accessed.
Grant has a somewhat entertaining story in the New Statesman concerning his own secretly recorded interview with one of the ex-reporters who “blew the whistle” on the privacy breaches. Apparently, Grant had randomly met the guy when his car broke down and this guy stopped to help him… while also taking some photos of him that later appeared in the news. When asked to write an article for the New Statesman, Grant thought that he might as well interview the guy, and since he wasn’t at all pleased about the photos appearing in the paper (and the whole thing about his voicemails being listened to), he decided to record the interview without letting the guy know.
While there’s some general amusement from the fact that Hugh Grant is acting as an investigative reporter, there really is a larger point here. One of the things we commonly hear concerning arguments for paywalls or government support of newspapers is that, without the professionals, no serious investigative reporting would be done. Now, I’m not saying we don’t need professionals. I believe professional investigative reporters are important and are likely to remain in business for quite some time. But, you can’t discount the fact that they’re not the only game in town, anymore. Anyone can be an investigative reporter, if the situation presents itself. Yes, it may involve people who are somehow “connected” to a story and want to get to the bottom of it, but that doesn’t make what they turn up any less “news.” The key point: if there’s a market for it, there will be a way to get it done. There’s definitely a market for investigative journalism, and I have no fear that it will continue to be done… even if it occasionally includes random surprises like Hugh Grant bugging a former reporter.