Hannah Clugston is an aspiring fashion journalist, based in York and Sheffield. She works part-time for the Yorkshire Post and the York Press, and was previously the Nouse Comment Editor. She has also interned at various magazines and dabbled in PR. She can be found tweeting, mostly about tea, vintage fashion, and a dubious lactose intolerance, here.
All fledgling reporters will be familiar with the desire to keep their toes behind the journalistic-law line. The basics are common sense: don’t invent stories, don’t take quotes out of context, don’t interrogate interviewees and always try to reference your sources. It now seems terribly unfortunate that our hard work and law-abiding behaviour may be lost on the national media, who, thanks to Leveson, seem to have hopped, skipped and jumped right across the journalistic-law line years ago.
Indeed, the Leveson Inquiry has uncovered lots of gruesome tales, revealing that not only has part of the national media disregarded their own code of conduct but in some places thrown a deaf ear to the law, too. So far, we’ve heard the terrible stories of interrogative journalists, illegal phone-hackers and aggressive photographers. Surely, Leveson has left no stone unturned?
But there is a large portion of the media that is sneaking past Leveson largely unnoticed, a portion that must have hacked into the very core of the celebrity social ring if even half of what they claim is true: the brashly coloured, ever-so-cheap portion of celebrity gossip magazines.
It is beyond me how exactly they are sneaking past when between them Closer, Grazia, Now and Look, circulate over one million magazines per week (1,261,543 to be exact). They might not be officially hacking anyone’s phone but they are amongst the worst journalistic-code breakers, throwing quotation marks on invented announcements, ignoring the need to reference any type of source and implying all sorts of nonsense on the way. Last week’s Now magazine carried a concerned looking Duchess of Cambridge with the headline, “Kate begs Wills ‘Don’t leave me’”.
After doing a little research, I found that this story was built entirely on quotes from an anonymous “friend”. I find it surprising that these magazines are allowed to reside so peacefully in our newsagents when they adorn their covers with false headlines, even going so far as to imply the separation of Prince William from his wife.
The worst thing about all of this is not the fact that journalists have done something else wrong, but the fact every week over a million people read complete fabrications.
This well-oiled celebrity gossip machine works so efficiently no-one even bats an eyelid at the suspiciously loose sources, or takes a minute to question how exactly Now magazine knows that Mark of The Only Way is Essex has a “dirty secret”. Not even Lord Leveson has noticed. But it is exactly this sort of journalism that should be investigated, the sort that invades private lives and makes “news” out of it regardless of how the story was acquired. If Leveson wants to know why on earth photographers sit outside houses for hours or hound celebrities day and night all he needs to do is pick up one of these glossys and he’ll find the evidence cover-to-cover.
Of course, it’s not just the fault of the journalists, there are a whole group of celebrities that rely on this type of publication to stay in the public eye and there are over a million people willing to read about them. But as future journalists this flimsy type of reporting that puts a stamp of approval on fabricated events and illegitimate sources should concern us.
And these magazines should be careful, it’s all very well criticizing Kerry Katona but messing around with the future Queen could quite literally leave them with their heads on the line.
Got an opinion on the unfolding Leveson Inquiry? Do you think Leveson should be calling up these mag editors? Let us know by commenting, or tweeting @wannabehacks.