Letter: Taming the tabloids

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The Independent Culture
Sir: David Aaronovitch proposes invading the privacy of tabloid editors ("The shameful sex scandals of the dirty tabloid editors (I hope)", 10 November). Two wrongs may not make a right, but they might make lip- smacking entertainment.

Clive Soley, after all these years, is still surprised that the Press Complaints Commission ducks its responsibility ("Our press is still too intrusive", 10 November). Isn't that what the proprietors fund it to do?

The frenzy about homosexual politicians can be relied on to produce another half-baked clause tacked on to the PCC's universally ignored code. Then everything will go quiet until the next big media flap.

We are told that editors should do something. Proprietors should do something. Politicians should do something. Watchdogs should do something. The public should stop reading (fat chance).

The people who should tackle the ethical lapses of the media are the journalists - both the minority who offend and the majority who suffer animosity and contempt.

The National Union of Journalists code of conduct dates back to the 1930s. Why isn't it combined with the PCC code? Like whistle-blowers, journalists who refuse to work in the gutter should have statutory protection.

We hear what train drivers think of Railtrack, what nurses think of health trusts. Why do we never hear ordinary journalists' views?

Partly because most publishers are so neurotic about pay, hours of work, copyright etc that they won't allow the NUJ to be mentioned in their pages. (The Independent managed to report the recent BBC strike without even saying the NUJ was involved.) And partly because the NUJ leadership is in the grip of the ultra-left, preferring internecine strife to confronting the concerns of members.

If the majority of Britain's journalists don't wake up and force their own union to tackle ethical issues, they will remain near the bottom of the popularity polls. And they will lack the moral authority to persuade employers, clients and the public to treat them more fairly.


National Organiser (Freelance & Training)

National Union of Journalists

London WC1