Andy Coulson has achieved many things in his career and has contributed greatly to the British Press industry. Since his first post at the Basildon Evening Echo, he has worked at some of the most reputable newspapers in the UK including the Daily Mail and The Sun. His success developed rapidly. However, in 2007 after claims of subterfuge by The New of the World, he resigned. Nevertheless, Coulson was a trusted figure and was appointed as the Conservative Party’s director of communications in 2011. However, Coulson felt challenged by the heightening development of the subterfuge inquiry and stood down from this position later that year.
The inquiry involved many claims of subterfuge by The News of the World journalists and the alleged cases affected many lives. Perhaps the most famous case is that of Millie Dowler, a schoolgirl whose life was prematurely ended. Reports that the press intercepted her mobile phone during the search for her instigated an emotional reaction from the British public, and exemplified the extent to which some press companies were willing to go. In July 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that Coulson was to be tried for his participation in unlawfully intercepting communications, and last week, Coulson was incarcerate for 18 months.
There has been subsequent speculation over the sentencing, which can be viewed as a challenge to productivity; it can be noted that rather than one individual being held accountable, perhaps the situation grew due to a number of workers behaving in a way which challenged legal news gathering. Coulson may be held accountable because he was in a high status position at the time the practice was operating.
His sentencing may offer a message that misconduct of the press is far from acceptable, and British officials are now taking these matters seriously. Additionally, individuals may now feel much more at ease with regards to their privacy. It may provide some comfort for those such as the Dowler family, who can rest assured that some justice has been served.
This situation has provided a huge opportunity for growth in the British press industry. Accompanying the police investigation was the Leveson Inquiry, which appointed Justice Lord Leveson to analyse and make recommendations to reform the culture, practice and ethics of the press. This inquiry found that the regulatory body of the press employed at the time was far from effectively functioning. Leveson provides some detailed recommendations for a replacement of this body, which can work as an important reference point for the future press. Importantly, during the hearings, Leveson stated that ‘the press, operating properly and in the public interest is one of the true safeguards of our democracy’. This fact should be held at the forefront of all future press regulation.
It may also be viewed that the public inquiry into press subterfuge practice has potentially challenged the reputation of the press industry as a whole. Citizens may have felt that their trust in the industry was lessened by the revelations involved in the situation. However, this action may now balance these opinions.
With building competition from online content, it can be understood that the practice of subterfuge was instrumental in maintaining revenue for the newspapers involved. Obviously subterfuge is far from excusable, though a more balanced viewpoint may be achieved from this perspective. It indicates that newspapers need to become more creative and versatile to the changing climate of print media.
During the investigation, Rupert Murdoch hinted that subterfuge practices were ‘part of the culture of Fleet Street’ and whilst this may be a challenging viewpoint for some – the press has far from been blessed with a correctly functioning governing body since its initial development. The reason for this may far from be attributed to one single person; it can only be attributed to the nature of the industry and the way it has developed over many decades.
Now however, change can be celebrated and whilst this situation may have been a challenge for all involved, the fact that these practices have come to light may lead a way to completely revolutionise the press industry, with a new regulatory body and even new laws.
What other productive aspects may come to the newspaper industry via the Andy Coulson trial?