NORMALLY, our weekly leader column, where TheSouthern gives its own view on a topical issue, would see us link our comment to a story published within our own pages.
But we are breaking with that tradition to comment on the News of the World phone hacking scandal, because the profession of journalism, of which we are proud members, has been dragged to its lowest point.
Police are currently investigating allegations that not only were the phones of celebrities and politicians hacked into, but possibly also those of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, the parents of murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, as well as those belonging to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are also allegations from former prime minister, Gordon Brown, that other News International publications may have used underhand methods to access his son’s medical records.
We as professional journalists condemn any such reprehensible practices. But we must also take care that all journalists are not tarred with the same brush.
It should not be forgotten that it was actually a determined Guardian reporter, Nick Davies – not the police – who uncovered just how wide the practice of phone hacking might actually be.
There are members of the House of Commons now feigning outrage over the lack of morality shown by some in the media, who not so long ago had to defend overinflated, and in some cases criminal, expense claims in the face of an incensed British public – thanks to investigative journalists on the Daily Telegraph.
Perhaps we as a society should ask ourselves how was it that the News of the World remained one of the world’s largest selling newspapers, with its lurid reports into the private lives of celebrities, footballer’s wives and politicians, right up until the last issue on Sunday.
Thankfully, there are many journalists of integrity and professionalism, such as Davies, who remain the inspiration for the vast majority of the rest of us in this industry.