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The Independent. In the End, it Wasn't. What Next?

James Cusick photo
James CusickLondon
The Independent. In the End, it Wasn't. What Next?
James Cusick gives his personal view of the Whittingdale Scandal and cover up by the Press.

This year’s Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay went to the film Spotlight. Its subject matter was the uncomfortable truth of widespread and systemic child abuse carried out by Roman Catholic priests that had been exposed by committed, investigative journalists on the Boston Globe, backed, crucially, by a committed and fearless editor.

In the same awards season, another film, with no Hollywood stars and no significant production values on show, captured the spirit of what many regard as British journalism’s finest hour. Attacking the Devil laid out the detail of the Sunday Times’ lengthy campaign to uncover the truth about the thalidomide drug. The documentary was essentially a war story, with the paper’s legendary editor, Harold Evans, showing that when journalism’s great battles are analysed, he emerges as one of its finest generals.

The Whittingdale story that Byline carries today should have already been read when it appeared on the front page of The Independent months ago   

The overwhelmingly positive response to both films shows that we still have a deep visceral response to efforts which expose lies, half-lies and any institutional structure which attempts to cover-up or massage the truth.

In Evans' memoir of his time at the helm of Sunday Times, ‘My Paper Chase’, he singles out the colleagues he valued most as those who are “scholars in scepticism.” That is the shared DNA of these two films. And our applause is loud because it’s much easier to see where you’re going in the dark if someone provides a torch.

Elements of the fallout from Sir Brian Leveson’s inquiry and his recommendations for press reform, have been attacked as a threat to the future of open and investigative journalism in Britain. “Chilling” control, proposals for a royal charter described as “medieval”, an autocratic, draconian threat to liberty: the message is that unless all Leveson-related laws are buried or cremated in a symbolic pyre in Parliament Square, then there will no more Insight or Spotlight teams , no more stories exposing the next Philby or the latest Profumo, no more MPs expenses scandals, no Fifa cash-for-votes exposes, and perhaps no more offshore tax evasion scandals.

Mike Harris, the chief executive of the freedom-of-speech group, 89up, and author of the “Leveson’s Illiberal Legacy” report, wrote in the Daily Telegraph last year, warning of Putin-style, state-imposed, press regulation and said Britain’s proud 300-year tradition of press freedom was under threat. 

Despite the dark prophesy, Harris wrote : “All is not lost. There are friends of free speech in the Cabinet, including John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary.”

The irony is breathtaking.

The Whittingdale story that Byline carries today should have already been read when it appeared on the front page of The Independent months ago. That was always the objective of those involved - from senior editors to news editors, to those journalists who asked questions, and to the journalists in other papers who answered them.

 Harris wrote : “All is not lost. There are friends of free speech in the Cabinet, including John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary.”   

It would have far better had there been no Whittingdale cover-up to report. Other newspapers had the public interest justification to run this – and each, for their own reasons, opted not to.

In The Independent’s case, there was an understandable commercial pressure. But rather than be reduced to a tenant that had effectively become a client-state of the Mail, those in charge should have looked at the masthead, read the word “Independent”, and asked what Evans or Martin Baron, the former editor of the Boston Globe, now editor of the Washington Post, would have done? Sadly, that didn’t happen. And with the closure of The Independent, there is no second shot at redemption. 

Read James' full story of the press cover up of Whittingdale here

#Spotlight, #Attacking the Devil, #Boston Globe, #Sunday Times, #Sir Harold Evans, #Profumo, #Insight, #Mike Harris, #The Independent, #Whittingdale

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jason fraser

3 years ago

The concept of Byline Media is attractive.
i know little of your writers having been on chemo for some 7 years.
Martin Jacques, though a writer I rarely have agreed with nevertheless provokes an inner discourse in my out of practice brain. For that I commend.
Equally, your writer on Greek affairs caught my attention. I am half Greek and I can admit to being a Helenic phile( Does that expression exist?)
There had to be a however, and here it is : There is something that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable about the relentless campaign against John Whittingdale. I personally have been harangued about any images I may have taken of him and his partner. Did I sell them? Where did I take them. Blah blah. Short sharp answer ;I have neve photographed the man alone or with anybody. Nor has anybody on my behalf. In fact I havent barely taken a photograph since 2008 when I was diagnosed with Wegeners disease. A Terminal auto immune disease. Months back I fell into the sights of James Cusick. Lobby correspondent of the Indie. (Not political editor /reporter as you describe him) I categorically denied having taken a single photo of him. Alone or in company. Further, I stated for the record I had NEVER attempted to sell any images of him to the Mail. I had NONE. Never have and never will I suspect.
So why on earth does a journo called Nick Mutch ask yet again the same assinine questions yesterday? For pity sake, surely there is a more salient story out there??
For instance : After 23 years on the run I tracked down Terrorist Carlos The Jackal to Khartoum in Sudan. I photographed him. I cannot say more other than the fact he was in front of a French judge in 20 hours. Put that award winning exclusive alongside the Whittingdale tale. Perhaps fable. Ill toot my horn : Which story has impact. Had repercussions. A single man and a girl you call a prostitute or a pathological narcissitic murderer responsible for a raft of assassinations and cold blooded murders? Now behind bars. After I tracked him down. And you boast of six months investigations into this somewhat junior member of the cabinet? Its hardly Profumo is it. My instinct is to donate to your cause. Im held back by the lack of agenda setting exposes. And the b....dy hassle you have given me for what? Nada. I also retreat from the pretty blatant anti establishment...lets call it Tory.....agenda that screams out from most articles. I don't give a flying toss who you decide to scope..but why not keep it balanced.
I say again I respect Martin Jacques - not a fashionable thing to do- because he surprises or takes the reader back ,with his yes 'commie' ( the de riguere label he has attached to him) approach ,but he makes you think.
Finally, and it may take the odd reader back, I have been a member of the NUJ for 27 years. My father 60 years. My grand father (passed away) was from the 1930's to the 80's. Its no longer fashionable to be a member. But i remain paid up.
Please: find another story to expose/reveal and it will give your site a well needed jab in the arm. And I can bookmark your site. And back it?
Jason J Fraser