COLIN DRURY: Hacking hacks have themselves to blame

Chairman of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch, right, gestures during the annual general meeting with his son Lachlan, in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004. Murdoch's plan to move his News Corp. global media empire's major share listing from Australia to Wall Street won overwhelming shareholder approval at the company's annual general meeting. (AP Photo/Bryan Charlton)
Chairman of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch, right, gestures during the annual general meeting with his son Lachlan, in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004. Murdoch's plan to move his News Corp. global media empire's major share listing from Australia to Wall Street won overwhelming shareholder approval at the company's annual general meeting. (AP Photo/Bryan Charlton)
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ON the contrary, it has been an excellent week for journalism. Forgive me if you’re bored of this story.

Lord knows after 10 days of news coverage about any one thing, that’s normally my main emotion.

Like with the Arab Spring. Can you believe that thing’s still rattling on? It’s been ten months, dudes, start wrapping it up already. You’re dealing with the post-MTV generation here. If it can’t be explained in 140 characters, we’re going to start losing... meh.

But this whole News Of The World/News International phone hacking/police bunging scandal? Entertainment of the very highest order. There’s police corruption, government cover-ups, criminal journalists, amoral PIs, billionaire media barons and Hugh Grant all in one blimey-this-might-be-bigger-than-Watergate melting pot.

It’s like an episode of The Shadow Line, except better because (a) it’s not about something lame like police pensions, and (b) Christopher Eccleston isn’t in it. Or at least, not yet – who knows who the next victim will be?

Well, probably James Murdoch does (yes yes, allegedly, etc etc). I heard one commentator say he’s a man who knows where the bodies are buried. Presumably, he was speaking figuratively but, frankly, the way new revelations are exploding every day, who knows? Except, hang on, perhaps I shouldn’t be so flippant.

Because amid the ideological, political and big business battles being waged in Westminster and Wapping, amid the score settling and dirt digging, what seems to have been forgotten is that there are real victims here.

And I don’t mean myself who - hands up - will miss reading who Ryan Giggs is denying having it away with each Sunday now the Screws has shut down.

And I don’t mean the 200 out of work NOTW journalists who despite protestations of being cleaner than clean 2011, still quite obviously played fast and loose, if not with the laws of the land, at least with any normal person’s sense of morality.

No, I’m talking about the real victims who never chose to partake in the festering games of press and PR, police and prime ministers; the innocent families who were thrown into this hyena’s den only because their lives were ripped apart by some act of evil; the people whose human right to privacy was robbed by scummy men in search of sensationalism and salaciousness.

I’m talking about the Dowlers, about the Chapmans, about the victims of 7/7 and 9/11. So how, when a newspaper has put such people through such agony, can it possibly be a good week for journalism?

How, when editors are accused of approving illegal payments to police, can the British press hold its head high?

Simple really - because who was it who uncovered these horrific breeches of trust?

Not the police who themselves were so mired in the quagmire they declined to investigate any wrong-doing. Not the government that was so intimidated by Murdoch’s empire it refused (and still refuses) to take decisive action. And not even Hugh Grant who, quite frankly, needs to go and have his midlife crisis somewhere other than Newsnight. No, it was other journalists.

Good guys working on rival papers who refused to be mired, intimidated or distracted, and instead shone a torch on Fleet Street’s festering sore; brought a scorching beacon of publicity to its criminal underbelly.

It has been an excellent week for journalism which, when other institutions institutionally let the British public down, proved it is perhaps truly the safeguard of our democracy.