Stephen Glover: NoW down but not out
On the Press: Eady judgment leaves The News of the World down but not out
Monday 28 July 2008
Following his victory against the News of the World in the High Court on Thursday, Max Mosley has filed a £1.2 million lawsuit against Bild, the German tabloid. He is claiming breach of trust, violations of copyright law and fraud.
He is reportedly also preparing to sue the News of the World for libel over its allegation that he took part in a "sick Nazi orgy".
Mr Justice Eady, after considering the matter in sometimes comic detail, came to the conclusion that the orgy Mr Mosley freely admits to having organised had no Nazi connotations.
The judge chided the paper for jumping to conclusions, and for not having translated the exchanges in German between Mr Mosley and another prostitute, which do not bear out the Nazi allegations. However, one can understand how it rushed to the interpretation that Mr Justice Eady has debunked.If newspaper reports are to be believed, the speaking of German, the wearing of uniforms and, in particular, the inspecting of Mr Mosley's head for lice would seem to be elements one would not expect to encounter in a common or garden orgy, though I confess I am no expert in the genre.
The really important point is that the judge conceded that the News of the World would have had a public interest defence had it really been a Nazi orgy, since Mr Mosley has to deal with "many people of all races and religions," and to act out Nazi role-playing "would ... call seriously into question his suitability" as head of an international racing organisation. However, he came to the conclusion, contestable I would have thought, that the disgusting orgy which did take place – involving the shedding of blood, the infliction of pain and the degradation of women – could have no equivalent effect on the "many people of all races and religions" with whom Mr Mosley associates.
Isn't this distinction between a "bad" Nazi-style orgy and a "good" ordinary orgy, which nonetheless comprised beatings, lice-searching and uniforms, utterly bogus? There is a danger, if Mr Mosley pursues his action against the News of the World, that a more rigorous judge will not respect this distinction.
Moreover, there is the question of "Woman E", who filmed the orgy on behalf of the paper, and made the Nazi allegations. Disastrously for the News of the World, she did not appear as a witness in the case, pleading emotional frailty. Why did she withdraw? Was she frightened by the prospect of appearing in court? Did she feel browned off with the paper as a result of its (quite monstrous) decision to cut her fee from £25,000 to £12,000? Or was she lent on by MI5, for which her husband worked, and from which he has now lost his job? The implication of what she and her husband told yesterday's Sunday Times is that the security service did not wish one of its operatives to be drawn into a court case. Whatever the explanation, "Woman E" could still appear in a future case.
Almost everyone agrees that Mr Justice Eady's ruling in favour of Max Mosley marks a further undesirable step down the path towards a judge-made privacy law. Mr Mosley is plainly on a high. But the News of the World still has a few potentially lethal weapons in its locker, if only it has the gumption and courage to employ them.
'The Guardian' glamour model
Last week I had intended to write about Pamela Anderson, the glamour model and actress. For years she had an intense relationship with the Daily Star, and also enjoyed periodic flings with The Sun and Daily Mirror. But the red-tops began to tire of her when she approached 40, and now she can scarcely be seen in them at all.
Imagine my surprise when I saw she has begun to walk out with The Guardian. The other day it carried a large picture of Pamela holding a microphone. As is her wont, she was not wearing much clothing. The curious thing is that her picture accompanied a news story about an Australian TV channel axing Big Brother in which she was not mentioned.
Is it not noble of those boys at The Guardian to take on Pamela even when she is not in the news?
Good job, shame about the leaders...
Since the recent redesign of The Times I have been trying to put myself in the shoes of the paper's editor, James Harding. On the whole, it was a job well done, and he must know it. But there was one decision that may nag away in the back of his brain – putting leaders on page two.
The consequence is that the comment articles have been left like an engineless cruise liner adrift on the open sea. Most of the old columnists, good and not so good, are there, though Tim Hames has been spirited away into the night, and Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson have come aboard. It seems to me that, torn away from the leaders, the pundits have lost some of their authority.
Does Mr Harding in his heart think the same? Maybe people look at him strangely at parties. "There goes the man who put the Times leaders on page 2", they possibly say to themselves. The trouble is that, even if he secretly agrees, he would be loathe to reverse his decision for fear of being accused of having made a mistake. Perhaps it could be done in a year or two, but not now.
May I suggest an alternative approach? The Times's obituaries were some years ago banished to the back of the paper, where they look as incongruous as a dowager on Blackpool beach, crammed between motoring and "lonely hearts" ads. I think my old friend Peter Stothard banished them there when he was editor for reasons that had to do with advertising.
Perhaps such considerations still apply but I imagine they could be circumvented. If the obits were brought back into the heart of the paper, and reunited with the comment pages, columnists might regain some of the authority they lost when the leaders were yanked away.
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