Donald Trelford: For now, this 'scandal' is still light on evidence

Media Studies: The police concentrated on the royals because that could have revealed a major breach of security

Viewed from a small island in the Mediterranean, where I am writing this, the phone-hacking saga begins to look obsessive, hysterical and opportunistic – a case of "dog eats dog" gone barking mad. Some of the journalists involved are no doubt motivated by a genuine desire to improve the conduct of their profession, but there are other vested interests at work whose motives are not so pure.

There is the anti-Rupert Murdoch faction, for example, which includes some rival media groups who fear his market dominance. They want to stop his company gaining control of the part of BSkyB it doesn't already own, and it suits them to keep his reputation in the mire while the issue remains unresolved.

Then there are the MPs, still smarting from the drubbing they received from the newspapers over the expenses scandal and itching to get their own back. The Labour Party enjoyed prompting the resignation of Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World turned Downing Street spin doctor, because it was a political embarrassment for David Cameron.

Next are the celebrities who have been exposed by the tabloids in the past and look forward not just to revenge but to a cash reward if there is any chance that their phones have been tapped. This group is egged on by lawyers who see a massive pay-off for themselves and their clients for alleged invasions of privacy.

But surely, the argument goes, if News International is paying out massive sums to buy off these celebrities, there must have been much more phone-hacking going on at the paper than has been admitted so far, and the police must have failed to catch all the culprits. Not necessarily so, for these are civil actions in which proof is determined by the balance of probabilities, not by the test of reasonable doubt required for a criminal conviction.

It didn't help the police inquiry that the Information Commissioner's list of breaches of data protection – on several newspapers, incidentally – did not name any reporters for fear of breaching their privacy. The police concentrated on the royals because that could have revealed a major breach of security. The claim that Scotland Yard was soft on the News of the World because the pair were in cahoots is described by a friend who is closer to the tabloid world than I am as: "Nonsense. My experience was that the cops would do anything to turn over a paper or its journos."

It seems extraordinary that this story should remain so high on the news agenda. It was all a long time ago, two people have been to jail, the paper's editor has resigned twice from senior posts without any convincing evidence being produced against him, the Press Complaints Commission appears satisfied that newspapers now abide by data protection law, and police inquiries have resumed.

Evidence is the key word, and the press should wait for that. The fact that a celebrity thinks he or she may have been hacked isn't evidence. The fact that Mulcaire gave information to the paper's news desk is not evidence that many people must have had guilty knowledge of his phone-hacking – a straw at which the Guardian and The Independent have been grasping rather desperately in recent days. "Where is the Daily Mail when you need it?" pleaded Roy Greenslade. When the Guardian has to call on the help of its sworn enemy, it really must be struggling to keep the story alive.

Still an industry we should be proud of

It must be around 35 years since I was first asked to judge press awards. This year I am judging four different sets of awards. "Why do we go on?" afellow judging veteran moaned tome the other day. The answer, I think, is that it restores one's faithin newspapers at a time whentheir standards are under frequent attack.

Even the most assiduous news hound cannot possibly read everything. I read as much, probably more, than most people (increasingly online these days), yet I am amazed when I read the entries for the press awards to discover how many marvellous features, columns and interviews I have missed. Stuff that is entertaining, enriching, inspiring – I can't quote specifics because I amin the midst of judging this year'sPress Awards (formerly the British Press Awards), now run by the Society of Editors.

I have often thought that a paperback should be published every year of the winning pieces as a reminder to the public of what the British press can achieve at its best. The public certainly seem to need a reminder.

A first outing for the newest Trelford

Many years ago, Michael Green wrote a hilarious newspaper novel called Don't Print My Name Upside Down. I thought of it last week when I inserted into the column I write for a paper in Mallorca a picture of myself with my new son Ben. Unfortunately, it appeared upside down, with Ben cut off completely.

Mind you, gremlins can creep into British papers too. There was the famous case of a red top showing a horse in the Grand National jumping under Beechers Brook – and doubtless many similar cock-ups elsewhere. Ben was luckier than the horse: he finally made his first public appearance this week, with both of us the right way up.

Donald Trelford was Editor of The Observer, 1975-93, and is Emeritus Professor of Journalism Studies at Sheffield University and President of the London Press Club.

Stephen Glover is away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower