Martin Bright

Will the dirty business of journalism survive hackgate?

How long will it take for journalism to recover from what has been done in its name by the News of the World? It’s possible to argue that our profession or trade, or whatever you want to call it, will regroup and find new ways of holding the powerful, the rich and the famous to account. Rat-like cunning is an eminently transferable skill as the 200 hacks laid off from Wapping this weekend should be able to demonstrate.

It can’t be said too many times that this scandal was initially brought to the public’s attention not by the police nor by parliament but by journalists. There is no one more rat-like and no one more cunning than the Guardian’s Nick Davies. And I mean that as a compliment.

But there are genuine concerns that the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. Andrew Gilligan wrote eloquently last weekend of the need for journalists to sail close to the wind. Suzanne Moore has now come out in defence of red-top title-tattle.

But these are uncertain times for journalists, not least those working at the Guardian stable, where the triumph of the phone hacking exposures has coincided with the announcement that the paper will now be a “web first” news organisation.

Those who believe that the fourth estate will easily recover from these revelations should spend some time with MPs and ask how well they have recovered from the expenses scandal. They are still feeling deeply bruised from the experience of having their collective bona fides questioned.

This is not over yet. Any enquiry into the practice of journalism in the first decade of the 21st century will find that large numbers of journalists were using all sorts of “imaginative” techniques for getting stories.

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