The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

As far as my own students are concerned, we teach using a live website called the EastLondonLines which is like a local paper and it runs all year, so they are working very much in a real newsroom environment and dealing on a kind of daily basis with the fact that we now have quite a big audience so they get comments and they know what it feels like, they know that the people out there are real. I think that's one of the most important things, that they're not writing about people who are cardboard cut-outs, they're real human beings and they will respond.

So we have an absolute, no questions asked, everybody has a right of reply on EastLondonLines and our students know that and they learn that, but I have to say that only two students to my knowledge have ever gone to work on one of the red tops from my course, which might be something to do with the students who arrive and where they go.

In terms of my research, though, I have interviewed -- I did two research projects, one early in -- sort of 2002 and another one in 2007 and 2008. They were fairly small samples and I was interviewing people right across the press. I wasn't specifically interviewing them about ethics. In the first wave I was looking at how ethnic minority journalists operated in mainstream newsrooms and I wanted to see how they dealt with stories that were quite often racist and how they were able to deal with that. The second wave of research was actually looking at how people were using new technologies to do research.

The ethical questions came up almost unasked. In the first set of interviews, some of the people were under most extraordinary pressure because what seemed to be happening was that young ethnic minority journalists, often quite naively going into red top newsrooms, were actually being asked to do the stories that dealt directly with black and ethnic minority people, so that they were -- partly because they would be more likely to get an interview, and then they were finding that the work that they were writing was being twisted and changed, and they found it almost intolerable.

The interesting thing about it is that as I look at the names of people on the newspapers, an awful lot of them aren't working where they used to work. I mean one in particular who I interviewed, talked -- he said at the end the trouble was that he'd come in from a local newspaper:

"I was doing shifts on a daily basis. It was up to them to decide whether to renew my job the next day. So if I lost my job I wouldn't be able to pay the rent or anything like that, which probably isn't an excuse, but there was still that thought there."

He, I'm quite glad to say, I've noticed is now working for the Guardian, so he no longer has to deal with that any more. And you find that quite a lot of these young people are coming in, working under extraordinary pressure and trying to find a way to get on to the more ethical newspapers because they don't want to do this stuff. But then a lot of them get trapped because the red tops pay much more, in a lot of situations, so they get trapped by the fact that they've got themselves into a situation where they have quite a good salary coming in and they kind of go with it.

There was one particular person who said, who was at that time a news editor, who kept talking about how he kept meaning to leave, he was going to leave. As far as I know, he's still there. But a lot of people do try to leave and a lot of the kind of things that -- the kind of problems are at quite a low level.

Somebody else said, a young woman reporter was saying:

"They want attractive people in the paper, they want blondes, they want nice looking girls, the younger the better. You know that's what they want, so that's what you get because otherwise you'll either be in for a shouting or you'll have to do it again."

I must add that when I interviewed these journalists, they were paranoid about me suggesting what newspaper they worked for because they were afraid that somebody might work out who they were. They could not speak publicly.

The second wave of research that I did, which was, as I said, looking at Internet research -- incidentally I didn't hear any instances of phone hacking, but I was at that point talking mainly on the more upmarket press because I was simply interested in how people were using the Internet to do research, but again, while doing that research, people were talking about the extraordinary pressures they were under to simply repurpose, take stories from elsewhere which they might not necessarily even have checked, rewrite them, and you'd find people had stories that were going out under their bylines but they'd only written about three lines of. It had just been cobbled together through the day from a whole lot of different places.

So to suggest that they would have any -- they don't feel they have any control over what eventually winds up either on the page, or certainly this was happening a lot on the Internet, that the Internet editions were -- you take a bit from this paper and a bit from that paper and you put it together and you make a couple of phone calls, and the next time you look at it a whole lot more had been added or it had been changed a lot.

The other thing I found that was that at that particular time there was huge, huge commercial pressure to go online first, so that all the newspapers were moving towards the online first way of doing things, which meant working much, much faster, but they were also losing staff.

At this stage, and I think it's reasonable to say that I was interviewing people in the Telegraph at this point, an awful lot of the most senior journalists, the ones who would be responsible for a very different kind of reporting which was much more thoughtful, which was much more led by specialists, were leaving, either under pressure or because they didn't like it any more, so that the whole layer of more senior, more seasoned, more knowledgeable journalists were quietly disappearing. I just drop that in because I think it probably was having some kind of effect.

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