Journalists: your moral and intellectual superiors!
I’m indebted to Michael Cook, editor at MercatorNet, for singling out the following exchange — part of the ongoing News of the World scandal — as his favorite example of that UK newspapers’ obsession with phone tapping.
Note: this story is bylined 2002 — but in those days, News of the World employees taping each other was considered just semi-amusing news by rivals at the Telegraph, not the symptom of a larger, toxic moral problem:
Tues, Sept 11, three hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers: Begley is told [by News of the World editors] to turn up at tomorrow’s news conference, dressed as Harry Potter.
Wed, Sept 12: Still feeling stunned, he phones his newsdesk editor Neville Thurlbeck for confirmation. (…)
CB: Neville got a message from Rebekah asking me to dress up in my Potter gear and go to her office. I think Neville was as surprised as I was. I just couldn’t bring myself to prance about as Harry Potter when something like 50,000 people were dead. (…) I would be dressed up as a transvestite teenage schoolboy, for God’s sake. I did it for as long as I could. It’s a shame because I’d worked hard to get my job. But I couldn’t. (…)
CB: I’m so wound up about all this.
GM: Charles, Charles, Charles, let me tell you something. This is not a business for prima donnas. You know that and I know that.
CB: I’m disillusioned. . .
GM: I have told you that this is not going to be held against you. Charles, you should think very seriously about coming in on Tuesday.
CB: Well, to be frank, Greg, as far as my future at News International is concerned, I haven’t toed the line for the editor’s pet project. I didn’t prance around while the World Trade Centre was being bombed, for her personal amusement. I can’t just stroll in.
GM: Why not? Charles, that is what we do – we go out and destroy other people’s lives.
CB: I don’t want to waste any more of your time, Greg. I’m sorry.
GM: Well, look after yourself. Cheers.