[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]
"Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people, with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility." Newspapers have often demonstrated "a significant and reckless disregard for accuracy" and "misrepresentation and embellishment takes place to a degree far greater than could ever be thought of as legitimate or fair comment."
I've just read the Leveson Inquiry, published yesterday and running to nearly two thousand pages. These quotes come from the forty page executive summary. For those of you beyond the UK's shores, the Inquiry is about the freedom of the press in both the positive and negative manifestations of that expression, with a focus on how we can attenuate the negative.
The UK enjoys a pluralistic media of which other countries are rightly envious, and a free press is central to our national identity. The report quotes Sir Winston Churchill: "A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny ... Under dictatorship the press is bound to languish ... But where free institutions are indigenous to the soil and men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the Fourth Estate, the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen."