Ian Monk: 'Dog eat dog' could spell end for print

Dragging media, police and politicians further into its mire, the newspaper phone-hacking story rolls inexorably on, destroying reputations and sowing seeds of mistrust between newspapers and readers.

Ian Monk: 'Dog eat dog' could spell end for print
Ian Monk: 'Dog eat dog' could spell end for print

One taboo smashed by the scandal is the old maxim that newspapers do not write about newspapers, that Fleet Street dog does not bite Fleet Street dog.

Traditionally, tales about proprietors' peccadilloes and editors' excesses, well known in media circles, were kept from readers. Stories of broken marriages, spectacular divorces, illegitimate children and family feuds were strictly for the media owners' club.

It was a convenient and exclusive arrangement. Doubtless it puzzled and angered other high profile figures whose own lives had filled acres of newsprint.

The final sign that the omerta was broken came with the reporting of the life and times of Rupert Murdoch's third wife, Wendi. Previous reporting of the marriage had been minimal and decorous. Now even Murdoch's own Times and Sunday Times published full-page profiles of Wendi's previous life and liaisons.

The mutual media shredding of reputation is equally explosive. There are 13 separate inquiries in the wake of the alleged News International criminality.

The name of the game seems to be to spread the blame across as many media groups as possible to seek collective safety in the idea that 'everyone was at it'.

In pursuit of this, newspapers are beginning openly to write about the alleged malpractices of rival titles. Many of their claims seem to be based on little more than wish fulfilment. Yet, fuelled by headline coverage on the BBC, they pile on the reputational damage to the print industry.

Such a bonfire of media reputation could leave millions of cynical and alienated readers deciding that what increasingly portrays itself as a corrupt print medium has only limited appeal in the internet age.

There is a desperate need for an industry-wide strategy to restore the reputation of the print industry, in order to ensure that Dog Ate Dog does not become the headline on its own obituary. Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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