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.

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  • icon
    Squirrel Brains (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 10:04am

    I for one support his move towards investigative reporting and away from "acting."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steven (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 10:13am

    The 'mainstream media' hasn't really done much investigative reporting in years. Their generally to worried about losing access to people/places/organizations to step on anybodies toes to hard. They also get caught up in the competition for attention and place more value on sensationalism over actual facts and perspective.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Andy (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 10:17am


    I felt obliged to log in and comment simply to say that equating News of the World journalists with professionals, to my mind, amounts to flattery in the extreme, but we can let that go considering the suggestion doesn't undermine your point, Mike!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 12:05pm

    Quick question...

    Is "blew the whistle" slang for something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    danny bloom, 16 Apr 2011 @ 7:11pm

    conrrections policy in print and online, archives etc.

    Mike, can you do anything with my little viral campaign to boost awareness of typos and gaffes not beging corrected, ever? -- danny in Taiwan RE:

    Hello, Dan. Thanks for your note. The PD's policy is to correct errors quickly, online and in the newspaper. I don't doubt that because we're still getting accustomed to online publishing that we have missed or delayed corrections in the versions on I believe we're aware that faulty online information that gets picked up and repeated far and wide is difficult or impossible to trace and correct.


    To: Smith, Chris
    Subject: newspaper-errors-can-be-so-amusing-when

    Hi Chris...big THANKS for your note...i am not working for a
    newspaper anymore, retired, on a very low income....SMILE SIGH......and your NOTE helps me think
    this through. Can you WRITE about this problem soemtimes in yorur
    column? Maybe interviwe a local tech expert about all this......i am a
    writer, blogger, reporter, editor and COPY EDITOR from way back, and I
    always SEE typos and gaffes in print and online...and that's okay, to
    err is human, but i am glad to know your paper has a good and firm
    correction policy in place. And your point that faulty info can get
    PICKED UP by other outlets and travel far and wide, not only in the
    of quick news and deadlines, but also evn a month or a year later,
    archives can pick up OLD stories still online that have goofs or
    typos, so my
    main focus with my TYPO CAMPAIGN is not so much to get corrections in
    the papers ASAP, i think papers are doing their best to do this, BUT
    i am worried about the longterm effects of typos and mistakes that
    NEvER get corrected and remain archived forever.....such as the Boston
    Phoenix recently speaking of Hitler's book titled , er, MIEN KAMPF and
    the NYTimes having one fo their top columnists speak of news EKEING
    out to the media whne he meant LEAKING OUT....and it has NOT been
    correctred at the NYT since LAST JULY.......alomost a year....!!!!

    so anything you can add to this campaign outreach re your two points of
    1. typos and mistakes can get puicked up and travel far and
    wide....GREAT POINT, Chris, i had not thought of that!
    2. for future archives and for posterity....time travellers in year
    2323 AD might laugh at our online mistakes, no???


    Danny Bloom, in Taiwan, from Boston
    copy editor in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan newspapers

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Idobek (profile), 18 Apr 2011 @ 7:43am

    Journalists found at News of the World

    Rupert Murdoch immediately issues shoot on site order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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