UK inquiry shines light on rough tabloid trade

Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:49am EST
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By Kate Holton and Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Stalking children, rummaging through bins, bullying and deceit -- the tricks of the tabloid newspaper trade are being laid bare at a public inquiry that is giving Britons a sobering insight into how their appetite for gossip and scandal is satisfied.

Analysts and members of the industry say the revelations are highly damaging and will likely further harm newspaper sales, especially for the popular tabloid titles, and will inevitably lead to tighter regulation of an industry that polices itself.

"I think this has been the most damaging week to the British tabloid newspapers that I can remember," Max Clifford, the country's most high profile publicist, told Reuters.

"People are disgusted, offended and I think a lot of people will say that they just won't buy tabloid newspapers."

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the inquiry into media practices in July amid a public outcry over widespread phone hacking at the now closed News of the World tabloid, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire.

Appearances this week by actor Hugh Grant and Harry Potter author JK Rowling have been broadcast live on rolling news channels and exposed how newspapers scrapping for survival in a declining market ruthlessly target public figures.

"I think an awful lot of people who have bought the News of the World, who still buy the Mail and the Sun and the Mirror will be absolutely horrified by what they've seen -- that this is the way they get the stories that they've been reading," said Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University in London.

"The Germans love gossip, the Italians can't get enough of it. The difference is they don't condone a culture within some parts of the press which simply exploits other people's lives for their own profit."   Continued...