Who Else Sells Stories to the Media?

08:08 Monday 18th July 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Let’s get some more now on the phone-hacking scandal. As we’ve been hearing all morning, the Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has become the latest casualty, after resigning over Scotland Yard’s handling of the crisis. That dramatic development came just hours after the former head of News International Rebekah Brooks was arrested. That only 48 hours after she’d quit her post. Now in a carefully worded resignation speech, that appeared aimed directly at Downing Street, Sir Paul Stephenson the Commissioner said he felt he had to step down, because his role in the scandal had become a distraction. (TAPE)
SIR PAUL STEPHENSON: I have seen at first hand the distractions for this organisation when the story becomes about the leaders, as opposed to what we do as a service. I was always clear I would never allow that to happen. We the Met cannot afford this, not this year. If I stay, I know that the inquiry outcomes would reaffirm my personal integrity. But time is short, before we face the enormous challenges of policing the Olympics. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: John Elworthy is the Editor of the Cambridgeshire Times and Wisbech Standard. Morning.
JOHN ELWORTHY: Hello there. Good morning to you again.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. There’s always plenty to talk about isn’t there, with this story? Every day there’s another big bomb.
JOHN ELWORTHY:Last week I said that when we go 48 hours without a new revelation, the story will start to come off the front pages. But we haven’t even gone 24 hours, or 12 hours without a new revelation, over the last 7 days. So it’s certainly back there on the front pages.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you shocked that he’s gone, the Commissioner?
JOHN ELWORTHY: I’m not shocked at all, when I discovered that he’d been at a health farm courtesy of the former Deputy Editor of the News of the World’s new PR role in life. You just wonder what it is that these people are up to. There was an amazing commentator at the weekend who talked about the relationship between journalists and politicians. When you think about the relationship between journalists, politicians and policemen, I agree with the commentator who said that it should be that of a dog and a lamp-post. If you think about it, we are the lamp-post, and they are the dog. We should stay our distance from them, and they come to use and abuse us as and when they so desire. But the idea that there’s all this inter-connection between the three is totally wrong, and has been proven to be wrong, and actually quite immoral in many ways.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s amazing how a picture is forming now of a jigsaw, where they’re all inter-connected in some way, the police, the newspapers, the MPs.
JOHN ELWORTHY: The jigsaw is really interesting. I keep reading, Bob Satchwell who’s the former Cambridge News Editor and Society of Editors Executive Director, and he keeps telling us not to panic, and do remember the contribution of 40 years of Rupert Murdoch. The trouble is that people are not going to remember the 40 years of Rupert Murdoch. They’re not going to remember all the innovations that he brought in our profession. They’re going to remember the 40 days in 2011 when the whole edifice of it collapsed. And that’s what’s going to be the defining moments of journalism. And it’s interesting that the Government are talking about ending cheque books, and then decided to keep them. Well it’s just as well, because cheque-book journalism has been as rife as you could get over the years. And what is going to be very interesting is, .. that Stephen Barclay the MP for North East Cambridgeshire is now questioning other institutions who might have received money, and he mentions various paramedics and he mentioned prisons last week, when he was talking to David Cameron in the House of Commons. And he’s asking some very interesting questions. Because Barclay’s role was as a fraud investigator for a bank, and therefore he understands that you can’t pay out unregulated large amounts of cash, without there being a paper trail. And there is going to be proven to be a substantive paper trail as to who received what money over recent years. For goodness sake, if you put in an expenses claim at the BBC, they’ll want to know everything about you.
JOHN ELWORTHY: So there must be an audited trail of where this money has been paid over recent years. It’s going to be fascinating as it starts to tumble out.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s one thing though Stephen Barclay making assertions with the privilege of the House of Commons. Do you think he’s got any proof?
JOHN ELWORTHY: I’m not going to go down too far into that route.
JOHN ELWORTHY: Whitemoor Prison was in our circulation area, and all I would say is that it is very noticeable over the many years how excellent the journalism has been from some of Murdoch’s papers in terms of prising out from Whitemoor a lot of revelatory stories that have made the front pages. Now good investigative journalism, that’s great. It’s quite interesting though, and we’re going to be commenting on this week as to how many of these stories have appeared. And one could say simply, good luck to the journalists that have dug them out.
PAUL STAINTON: There’s no proof that there’s any wrongdoing.
JOHN ELWORTHY: Barclay’s obviously keen to find out whether there is a bit more to this than meets the eye.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we shall find out. Who knows what will come out in the next few days and weeks. We have put a call in to the Prison Service by the way, just to check whether there is anything to say about that story, or potential story, about the good journalism that the Sun and the News of the World have had out of various places in the Prison Service.