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

Thank you. This is an important part of our submission, and humbly we would ask you, sir, to consider the view which has very rarely been made to you so far in this Inquiry that while I as an individual and Index as an organisation and I'm sure all right-minded people unequivocally condemn the actions that led to and arose through the phone hacking scandal, and while we -- as we will set out -- strongly advocate improved regulation and other methods to ensure better behaviour, nevertheless the -- born from my own experience over many years and our work at Index, the weakness of the UK media and the fundamental weaknesses of media in general are something that should be strongly taken into account.

Referring -- I go through very briefly in my submission areas upon areas, whether it's entertainment and celebrity journalism, business journalism, sports journalism, and of course one of the fundamental requirements of a good journalist is to nurture their sources, to become friends with the CEO, with the spin doctor, with, if it's a company, the CFO or whatever, in order for them to give you information that could potentially turn into an interesting insight or an interesting story.

My experience, however, of the Westminster lobby in the time when I was there from the mid-1990s until ostensibly the mid-noughties was a media that was extraordinarily pliant, particularly -- and I'm not making any political points here but I think I'm highlighting a particular era, and I'm not particularly qualified to talk about the current era because while I, to a small degree, am involved in it, to a much lesser degree than I used to be.

But having been a foreign correspondent and worked with journalists who risked life and limb to eke out information and stories, to come to a culture at Westminster where, with some very notable exceptions, there was a culture almost of feeding -- it was just feeding the beast. I remember the spin doctors -- and I quite often had more sympathy for them than I did for some of the journalists -- would literally say, "All right, we have to feed the beasts today, what are we going to feed them with?" and they would line up to be fed.

I remember one spin doctor, who I don't think it would be fair to name, one day -- I had just started out at the Financial Times and it was all about the soon-to-be-incoming Labour government and it's rapprochement with business. It was about 1996, and he was giving me a story about a new business initiative, and literally dictating pretty much the story to me down the phone, you know: "And then Tony Blair will say this, and then this happened and this happened." And I turned around and asked him a couple of questions, like: "But didn't you say this last week? Didn't this happen? Doesn't this contradict something else?" To which I got a response which I always will remember, which is: "Shut up, take it down if you want more from where this came in the future."

This really was -- and I turned around politely and got on with the guy and said, "Actually, I don't really -- you go and give it to somebody else. I want to do my own --" I'm not trying to sound worthier than anybody else, because obviously if I had lunch with ministers or whatever and they gave me a good story, I would do that story -- it would be crazy not to -- but there was a culture of compliance, of docility.

Now, if someone was on the floor, if there was a politician on floor, they would all give him a kicking. It was a sort of her instinct. When the going was clear, you would do it. But just as you had this very strong -- and it was -- a huge amount was obviously driven by the culture at the time, which was a desperation of politicians to endear themselves with News International, with Associated as well and with all the media groups, but there was a distinct pecking order. There was very much a sense of services renders: you write the story, and the more faithfully you write the story, the more stories you are going to get in the future.

To me, while obviously political journalism is about nurturing your services, that seems to be a travesty of this idea which Tony Blair then, later on in his farewell speech, led to him coining the phrase "feral beasts". They were occasionally feral but most of the time they were locked up.

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