New Head Of UK's Newspaper Regulators Thinks Bloggers Are A Bigger Problem Than Phone Hacking Tabloids?

from the this-won't-end-well dept

The Guardian has an interview with Lord Hunt, who has just taken over the UKs newspaper regulatory organization, the Press Complaints Commission (quite a name). Most of it is fairly tame to boring. But then… at one point, Hunt talks about all the wonderful journalists he knows and how they’re lovely upstanding citizens determined to get to the bottom of every story etc. etc. etc. And the Guardian reporter challenges him a bit:

But, I counter, surely the major problems occur because of the tabloids? “No,” he replies, “I think the greater challenge is with the bloggers, whether it’s Guido Fawkes or whoever.”

The question, clearly, refers to some of the recent phone hacking scandals in the UK, in which the News of the World hacked into tons of phone voicemails to get stories and did all sorts of other hugely ethically questionable things. I’m unaware of any bloggers, let alone all “the bloggers” combined, who have done anything quite that egregious. And, of course, a blog is just a software platform. Lumping together everyone who uses that single platform doesn’t make much sense. But, then again, someone who thinks that “the bloggers” are somehow a bigger problem for government scrutiny than those hacking into phone systems… well… I guess it’s asking a lot to expect him to “make sense.”

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Comments on “New Head Of UK's Newspaper Regulators Thinks Bloggers Are A Bigger Problem Than Phone Hacking Tabloids?”

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Butcherer79 (profile) says:

Too Right!!

I agree with the learned gentleman: If there weren’t any bloggers, the only opinion we’d see is that of the press or government, who have no hidden agenda’s and are not afraid of free speech at all.
I say the UK should bring in some more realistic stances on ‘free press’, like the chinese for instance, I can’t see how their lives are impeded by such government rule (probably because those stories/images wouldn’t be released, but hey-ho, if I can’t see it, it’s not happening!)

A Guy (profile) says:

I can see why he feels that way.

If bloggers take over the news industry, then whom will he regulate?

Also, in Britain they have more restrictions on the press. A lot more. Rich people have been known to go to court to prevent traditional outlets from reporting true news. Bloggers cannot be censored in the same way because if the list of things you cannot report goes to everyone anyway, the court order isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Philip Storry (profile) says:

You misunderstand...

Bloggers are clearly a massive problem. A blogger can write whatever they like, submit it to their “internal editor” for cleanup and approval, and then publish.
Whereas a journalist – well, they can write whatever they like. Then submit it to their editor for cleanup and approval. And then have it published.

If it wasn’t true or was obtained by unethical means, then the blogger must explain themselves and risk losing readers if their explanation is found wanting.

If the journalist’s product wasn’t true or was produced by unethical means, then they simply point people to the Press Complaints Commission.
Who, as a non-regulatory body with less power than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping bags, will leap into action.
Depending on how bad it is, they will either a) say there’s no problem; b) recommend a retraction/correction/apology be printed in a tiny space deep in the bowels of the paper, possibly in a foreign language or in complicated meaningless pictograms; c) say it’s very bad and do nothing.
Often, in a very reasonable and productive week, they will do all three in order, as they gradually realise how ineffectual and wrong their previous action was.
No matter what the PCC does, it then looks to readers like an action was taken and that the industry is effectively regulated, so the readers shut up and stop complaining.
(Or they don’t, and the PCC escalates as previously described. Sometimes, you just have to do nothing several times before people are satisfied!)

So the PCC is massively threatened by bloggers, because they make the mistake of trying to handle the problem themselves.
Which means that there’s no need for the PCC.
Which means that there’s nowhere for editors to go when they retire.
And that would mean an end to the capture by the press of an ineffective self-regulating non-regulatory body for the press.

Which, frankly, sounds a bit like a gravy train screeching to a halt just because some idiot with a blog pulled the emergency cord…

Call me Al says:

Well its certainly a misguided comment and I think reflects the view of many of the “newspaper generation”. He gets his papers in the morning and browses through them. He thinks everyone does that and fails to understand that many prefer their news from other sources which are not the traditional press.

His claim to be a big supporter of freedom of the press does encourage me but that is coloured somewhat by his differentiation between what he considers to be the press (newspapers essentially) and bloggers etc

John Doe says:

Bloggers are a problem for government and newspapers

Bloggers are a major problem for governments and established news organizations. Blogs tend to have a narrow focus compared to the media. This focus gives them the ability to really dive into a subject and dig out all that there is to be dug. This scares governments because a blog can lock on like a bull dog and eventually shed light on things that the government would rather not have come to light.

Now compare blogs to newspapers; since they cover topics in more depth than any newspaper ever could, they have more understanding of what is going on in those arenas. Where newspapers have come to rely on press releases, blogs can look beyond the gloss to get to the real details.

John Doe says:


You know, you have really hit on something here. I think that government regulators started out with the purpose of keeping their particular industry in check. To ensure that it doesn’t harm the public, the competition and the economy.

They now seem to see their jobs as being champions of that industry and protecting it from the public and the competition and even the government itself. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the industry pays better than the public.

Jeff Brown says:

"Bloggers" not the problem.

OK… So look I am heavily involved in the news industry and god knos the sector has its own share of problems, some very complex.

Although is can be, “blogging” is not usually Journalism.. Journalism requires adherence to established ethics and a process of editing and revision requiring at least two people.

What blogging is however is PUBLISHING and that is what the that pompously named UK dept is regulating, not just “Newspapers”

Not every journalist does a great job and not every blogger does a crappy one.

Now Lord Hunt does have a very newspaper centric view and his regulatory constituency is primarily legacy news organizations and he sees “bloggers” as being out of control. He is old and not a child or likely participant of the digital revolution.

Is he right? Maybe… maybe not, I don’t know and haven’t been able to do enough research yet to really develop an opinion.

What I think that Hunt is trying to say is that Blog [publishers] are becoming a more important source and that he is needing to address the complaints that he is receiving about those bloggers who run a little fast and loose with their ethics and standards of what they are publishing.

John Doe says:

"Bloggers" not the problem.

bloggers who run a little fast and loose with their ethics and standards of what they are publishing

That is funny stuff right there. Newspapers publish press releases as news. Newspapers don’t do any real investigative journalism anymore, they only want headlines. Newspapers hack answering machines. And one of the worst aspects of newspapers is they actually choose candidates in governmental elections! How is that for unbiased journalism?

Newspapers have gotten a God complex thinking they are the defenders of the truth and light (at least their version of it) and nobody should question them. Heck, most don’t even participate in discussion of the articles they write.

Just fire up a newsreader like Google’s and add news sources from the major papers. Then read their stories on politics and see how polar opposite they are. If they were really looking for facts, their stories would be closer together. Instead their bias shines through like a beacon in the night.

Butcherer79 (profile) says:


“Rich people have been known to go to court to prevent traditional outlets from reporting true news.”

AKA the super injunction, which apparently works for blogs too, but only those hosted in the UK, which is where the courts fell over. Bless. If you don’t want to be seen as someone who sleeps around, don’t sleep around:
From Wiki:
“In April and May 2011, users of non-UK hosted websites, including the social media website Twitter, began posting material connecting various British celebrities with injunctions relating to a variety of potentially scandalous activities. Details of the alleged activities by those who had taken out the gagging orders were also published in the foreign press, as well as in Scotland, where the injunctions had no legal force.”

If you’re really interested, you can read on the above page about which footballer’s it was about.

Makes me laugh really, how about NOT going to court to get the injunction, thereby NOT bringing attention to yourself.
OR, as suggested above:
Don’t have the affair in the first place.

Killercool (profile) says:

"Bloggers" not the problem.

If “journalism” requires strict adherence to a code of ethics, and a process of editing and revision that includes at least two people, then why is there such a history of NONE of those three people doing any fact checking? The “editing process” of which you are speaking is usually just grammar and syntax checking.

And you don’t have to be a “journalist” to be a newspaper writer, which is what the job can be more accurately called. You just have to have experience writing for newspapers.

The “code of ethics” you refer to may have existed some time in the past, but, like cowboys, the period it truly existed was short. “Yellow journalism” was occurring up into the 20th century, so I’m assuming it started some time after that. Of course, since the establishment of tabloids, the only fact checking done is the bare minimum required to defend against a lawsuit. In America, that is a single source who has told you that you can trust them. The defense is “I had no reason not to believe them,” essentially.

As for any legal repercussions for lies that are printed, well. Yeah, already got those. Defamation laws, anyone? If anything, it’s easier to press suit against an individual.

Anonymous Coward says:

The PCC’s so powerless that when one of it’s member newspapers (The Daily Express and that whole group of papers / magazines) said they were leaving the PCC, they just sorta bowed their heads and said “okay…” in a very meek voice.

They can’t stop people saying “I don’t want to be regulated by you” and leaving, which leaves the public with no easy way of getting a complaint even looked at regarding those newspapers/magazines, and they can’t regulate the papers that stayed behind.

The only reason they exist at all is so they can *claim* to be self-regulating whenever external regulation is discussed.

Jeff Brown says:

"Bloggers" not the problem.

Didn’t say that newspapers are blameless and they are really doing less and less of the true fourth estate style of journalism that really needs to be done.

By and all news is viewed as entertainment and news styles, budgets and approaches are trending that.

Fact is that bias sells and drives viewership and therefor is profitable, just look at Fox news or NewsMax for proof.

Ima Fish (profile) says:


Yeah, think about all the government entities regulating automobile dealerships. What those regulations do is eliminate any disruptive way of selling new automobiles. Under those regulations, if you want to sell new cars, you have to follow the regulations, thus, you have to follow the same approach the status quo uses.

Let’s say you come up with an innovative taxi cab service. Once again, if you’re disruptive, the status quo taxi cab services will complain to the government and the government regulators will shut down the innovative and more efficient upstart.

I could go on and on. Corporations pretend to dislike and even hate regulations. But those same corporations depend on regulations to protect their status quo.

Trails (profile) says:

A Sign of Disconnection

I think the “Guido Fawkes” thing is a reference to Anonymous, as in he’s conflating “bloggers” with “Anonymous”.

That’s a pretty epic conflation and shows that he’s basically lumping together what he sees as “internet dorks” and describing it as a problem. I’m surprised he didn’t implore anyone to think of the children.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Bloggers" not the problem.

Journalism requires adherence to established ethics and a process of editing and revision requiring at least two people.

No argument there. However, at least in the US, by this definition the only real journalism that I’ve seen done has been by bloggers. Certainly the corporate media gave up on journalism a long, long time ago. If they hadn’t, I would still be paying attention to them.

As it is, corporate media news is less authoritative and trustworthy than many major bloggers.

Schmoo says:


I’m very wary of ‘our side’ undermining our argument by exaggeration. IMHO, we should leave not even the smallest chink in our armour – ‘they’ will be making them up left, right and centre if past tactics are anything to go by – we don’t need to help them by handing them genuine, fair complaints on a plate. That means we should distinguish between Newscorp and ‘all tabloids’. High moral ground, and all that.

Idobek (profile) says:


The only reason they exist at all is so they can *claim* to be self-regulating whenever external regulation is discussed.

Perhaps because the press SHOULD NOT BE REGULATED!

The phone hacking scandal has actually shown that newspapers are regulated – by the market and laws unrelated to journalism.

The newpaper that was primary culprit no longer exists – that’s the market at work.

Most of the “hacking” that took place is hardly worth the name. Is what has been done unethical? Yes. Should it be illegal (with the government dictating journalistic behaviour)? No.

Does anybody really then government and, therefore, police, involvement in journalism and newsworthyness is a good idea?

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