Not only is oldstream UK media tearing itself apart right now, previously picked on figures are getting their own back too. For the benefit of non-UK readers, “mincemeat” is also known as “ground beef”, and that is exactly what comic Steve Coogan makes of former deputy features editor for News Of The World, Paul McMullan, on last night’s BBC Newsnight program’s round table discussion concerning the phone-hacking scandal, the closure of NotW by Rupert Murdoch, and his still possible takeover of the BSkyB TV network. Paul McMullan is no stranger to celebrity revenge, as a covertly-recorded pub conversation between himself and Hugh Grant, in which he admitted the extent of the NotW’s phone-hacking activities, and which was then published in the New Statesman, was responsible for reopening this whole media can of worms.
Steve Coogan has had a tussle with the tabloids before, when it was claimed he was having an affair with Courtney Love (which was denied by both parties, but which caught the public imagination). But what’s going on here is not simply revenge - as Coogan rightly points out in his very first sentence, Paul McMullan is a walking PR disaster for the tabloid press and News international. He comes across as oily, evasive, self-interested and a hypocrite - perfectly fitting the public image of everything bad about tabloid-level journalists.
Journos love to pick on politicians, but in the British public imagination they are second only to them in terms of being disliked. I’ve always wondered if they know this and pick on politicos and celebs to deflect attention from themselves, or if they genuinely, honestly, believe they are doing some kind of public service. According to McMullan it’s the latter (though I can’t believe that he is completely unaware of the level of animosity the public has for him and those in his trade).
So perhaps they really are that self-deluded, but the other thought echoing through my mind during all of this coverage is “these people work/live/breathe the media - so how can they look so bad on the TV screen?”. OK so the press seem to be trying to outdo each other to find the worst picture of Rebekah Brooks, but also take for instance News International’s Director of Corporate Affairs Simon Greenberg (interviewed here by Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow) or Roger Alton, Joint Executive Editor of The Times (also owned by parent company News international). These people deal in exposé, guilt-admission and subsequent rehabilitation for a living. So why aren’t they acting humbled, the way they tell everyone else they should act?
Interestingly, Paul McMullan has had some bad things to say about his then editor Brooks (neé Wade) recently. Brooks, more than anyone, is the central figure in this row, and it is claimed that Murdoch has sacrificed the oldest running, and most widely circulated newspaper in British history, just to protect her. But McMullan is not the only disgruntled former employee of NotW willing to dish the dirt - internet hype has been building around a Twitter account that has gone online during the last couple of days called ExNOTWjourno. The account is run by a journalist who has now found herself jobless, and who intends spill the beans on life behind the scenes of NotW under Rebekah Brooks, in a new blog. According to the account there are now 16 newly unemployed journalists working on dishing the dirt (and running stories planned for the last ever publication of NotW tomorrow), and the blog is due to go online sometime this evening. This is going to get interesting…