It’s always a tricky question for news executives: how do you cover stories which are not only about your own titles but don’t exactly show your publisher in a rosy light? The latest newspaper to face this dilemma is the Daily Mirror, which has had to respond to Wednesday’s admission, by publisher Trinity Mirror, that phone hacking did go on at Mirror group titles.
It represents a volte-face by the publisher, which for years denied wrong-doing by its journalists. Now it has admitted liability in four cases, settled six others and agreed to pay compensation. The first category consists of the BBC’s creative director Alan Yentob, the Eastenders actors Shane Richie and Lucy Benjamin, and the Coronation Street actor Shobna Gulati. The second includes the ex-footballer Gary Flitcroft, the former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and the actor Christopher Eccleston.
Faced with this dramatic turn-around, the Daily Mirror managed to find space for only three terse paragraphs on page 2 of today’s paper. ‘6 phone hack cases settled’ was the bland headline, avoiding any mention of the Mirror and leaving readers to find out about the other four cases in the final paragraph.
The total number of words devoted to the story by the Mirror was 69, a figure beaten for brevity by The Sun’s 61-word article. To be fair, the print edition of the Daily Express didn’t even enter the race, ignoring both the admission of liability and the settlements. The Daily Star found space for seven paragraphs, but you would have had to get as far as page 21 to read it. In the Daily Mail, the story was relegated to page 24.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the first admission of phone hacking by titles not owned by Rupert Murdoch is a major development in the continuing phone hacking scandal. According to the country’s most widely-read newspapers, however, you would be wrong – and that’s despite the fact that 19 more individuals have issued hacking claims against Trinity Mirror. Lawyers say many more could follow.
As they say in the trade, don’t watch this space….
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