The Only Way is Ethics: It’s hard to imagine a world where good newspapers didn’t divide opinions

It means columnists are writing interesting and challenging articles

Share

It is inevitable that not all readers of a given newspaper will enjoy every element of its content. Some will have no time for the sports pages, others won’t give two hoots about anything but the cryptic crossword (and heaven forfend that the setter should ever be replaced).

Columnists can certainly divide opinion, none more so than Nigel Farage, whose signing by The Independent last year was greeted with respect and interest by some, and with dismay by others. But he is not the only writer who splits the readership. On the whole I think that can be regarded as a good thing because it suggests both that columnists are writing interesting and challenging articles and that The Independent’s audience remains as varied as ever.

Nonetheless, I was slightly disconcerted last week to receive a complaint about a particular journalist whose column was described by a disgruntled reader as “inane” and “vapid”. I was surprised in part because it happens to be a column I have always found rather enjoyable, which ought, of course, not to mean a great deal in light of my first sentence.

I was also a mite startled because the essence of the complaint was that the column was more suited to social media and, said the reader, had no place in a newspaper that aspired to a decent standard of journalism. That struck me as an odd distinction because, of course, newspapers play an increasingly integral role in social media – both in feeding its appetite for information and by reporting its spats and gossip. Britain remains oddly obsessed with the differences between media platforms but the distinctions are largely false or anachronistic. 

The reader was evidently not a fan of confessional journalism, which is fair enough (the trend for it can get a little tiresome). However, the appearance in a newspaper of a column which might equally be suited to an online blog is not evidence of old-style news values selling out. On the contrary, it demonstrates that the longstanding ability of newspapers to be all things to all people is alive and well.

Media stung by a failed sting

The “celebrity sting” took a knock last week when the trial of Tulisa Contostavlos – the drugs one, that is, not the assault one (do keep up) – was brought to an abrupt halt after the sole prosecution witness, Sun journalist Mazher Mahmood, was found by the judge to have given inconsistent evidence.

This latest scandal is clearly damaging to Mahmood, a former stalwart of the News of the World, and he may face legal action himself. Yet it may be detrimental too to legitimate investigative journalism, which relies on subterfuge as an important tool, albeit one that should be used sparingly. There are already checks and balances in place to ensure that when reporters from The Independent go undercover they do so for the right reasons and conduct their enquiries properly.

Yet the events of last week will give ammunition to those who would wish to portray any operation involving subterfuge as illegitimate entrapment.

Beyond that, the comments by the judge that “there are strong grounds for believing Mr Mahmood told me lies” further bolster the impression that journalists are arrogant so-and-sos who are prepared to tell fibs to a court, let alone anyone else. It is certainly not a fair reflection on the industry as a whole, but perception, of course, is nine-tenths of reality; and the last three years have hardly been short of negative headlines about British journalism.

Will Gore is Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent, i, Independent on Sunday and the Evening Standard Twitter: @willjgore

READ NEXT:
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger, dying out - a majestic animal on its knees
What if 35 Palestinians had died, and 800 Israelis?
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
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