May 28, 2015

"Hack Attack" with Nick Davies at AWF15

Zoe Colling from Heritage & Research went to hear Nick Davies in "Hack Attack", and tells us about it in this guest post.

I felt poorly prepared for Nick Davies’s session. I haven’t read Hack Attack: how the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch or Davies’s earlier book Flat Earth News: an award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media. Happily, I was not at a disadvantage, as Davies provided a compelling and polished summary of Hack Attack. Each humorous, shocking or depressing anecdote in the saga spilled forth without much need for the guidance of Toby Manhire’s informed interjections.

Hack Attack is about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, which Davies was able to investigate through a series of stories which The Guardian published. Davies began by recounting what might have remained a small story: the royal editor of the News of the World was caught listening in to the voicemail messages of staff at Buckingham Palace. The royal editor and a private investigator ended up being sentenced to prison and the case was closed. One reason it was possible for the case to be taken to court was because, as Davies put it, “The royal family are one of the few groups more powerful than Rupert Murdoch”.

Despite the case having been closed, Davies was sure there was more to the story. He began a painstaking investigation into unethical practices at the News of the World which led to the exposure of crime and corruption on a very wide scale involving people in media, the police and politics. It was a courageous act and Davies’s commitment to revealing the truth, especially since the unethical behaviour occurred in his own professional circle, is admirable and inspiring.

Davies’s talk was focused and there was a clear narrative flow. Early on, when Manhire asked a question which Davies deflected by shifting his attention to the topic of fictions the media tell – an exaggerated ‘media frenzy’ headline connected with a recent Prince Harry spotting in the South Island – Manhire expressed frustration that he had asked a question and, instead of answering, Davies “went to fucking Queenstown”. Davies claimed the tangent he went on was “more interesting than the question you asked” -- jokey banter with a slight edge.

Davies’s take on the different approaches of the Rupert Murdoch owned-newspapers in the United Kingdom was insightful. He claims the Murdoch tabloids are to some degree used to invoke fear in those who are in positions of power. He used the playground bully as an analogy: the bully beats up one or two children as an example to the rest. In the same way, tabloid newspapers expose the private lives of those in power as a way of gaining compliance from onlookers in the elite. The more respected conservative papers in the Murdoch stable are able to promote his political agenda in a direct way. Davies’s stories on unethical practices at News of the World ran in The Guardian for two years before other media outlets picked up the story.

In his talk, Davies was self-deprecating, mentioning how the public can view the job of an investigative journalist as a very tough one; yet, in the phone-hacking scandal, a source contacted him directly, which he described as being like a gift falling from the sky.

At the end of his session, Davies touched on the topic of the future of journalism and the issue of the internet busting up journalism’s business model. He spoke about the public’s desire to read unique stories. Accessing daily news reports about things like car crashes or weather events is already very easy to do online, he said, and news agencies may move away from focusing resources on these sorts of stories. Instead, Davies suggests, more attention may be given to “explanation by brilliant people”, for example, columnists who write interesting, well-researched stories. Long reads and investigative pieces may be invested in, rather than the rewriting of agency copy. It was a good thing the session ended on a not-so-gloomy note regarding the outlook for the changing profession of journalism.


Auckland Writers Festival

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 19:49


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