By Leah McLaren - Friday, December 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
Why the Leveson inquiry put the romcom star in the spotlight
During the months of political caterwauling and public outrage over the U.K.’s phone-hacking affair—in which reporters intercepted the cellphone calls and voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even a missing girl—and its buttoned-down cousin, the Leveson inquiry, which looked into the scandal, a dazzling new activist has stepped onto the public stage. His name is Hugh Grant and he wants you to know that just because he’s taken up a cause, he’s not political. “I’m often asked why I keep banging on about the press,” he said in a recent article for The Spectator. “Am I a lefty? I’m not. I’m not a righty, either. I drift.”
Indeed, the film star’s involvement is more personal. He wants press regulation and he wants it now. Like most British celebrities, he has been repeatedly doorstepped and harassed by the tabloid press. (Last fall, the mother of his child, Tinglan Hong, was forced to take out an injunction against paparazzi after she and Grant’s baby were reportedly besieged by photographers and phone calls at home.) But unlike most celebrities, Grant is willing to exert the entire force of his charisma and fame to get it. He’s done so, not just by testifying at the Leveson inquiry, as many other celebrities did—singer Charlotte Church, actors Sienna Miller, Jude Law and Steve Coogan, to name a few—but by attending party conferences and going on TV and radio. He’s also written editorials for whomever will publish him on the subject about which he is suddenly so passionate: the need for British media to “put right its past wrongs” by submitting to regulation by an independent body underpinned by government authority.
This last issue has become the sticking point in a debate currently raging in the U.K. Parliament, where a draft bill on the matter is now under way. The 2,000-page Leveson report, released last month, recommends the creation of such a body to govern press standards in the U.K. Among its powers would be setting fines and mandating more prominent apologies or corrections.
By macleans.ca - Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM - 0 Comments
Phone hacking, now pedophilia. The Imperfectionists author Tom Rachman dissects the U.K. media mess.
As the BBC hyperventilates over grave mistakes in its news coverage, an earlier media scandal prepares to sting anew. The government-ordered Leveson inquiry, prompted by charges of criminal mischief at British tabloids, is expected to issue recommendations this month—perhaps calling for legal curbs on press freedom, a prospect of distress to journos and delight to their targets.
The British press—often dubbed “raucous,” apparently as a compliment—has a tradition of wit and wilfulness, from Samuel Johnson to George Orwell to Christopher Hitchens. Publications investigate boldly, comment amusingly. But there’s oodles of rubbish too, some obtained by dubious means that have included impersonating a sheik and, it is alleged, illegally accessing the voicemail of crime victims and celebrities.
The actor Hugh Grant, enraged by intrusive tabloid reporting, has become a prominent advocate of press regulation. “We’re not the wicked Goliath of the establishment taking on the plucky David of the press,” he wrote recently in The Spectator. “It’s the other way round. They are the establishment. They have effectively run the country for the past 40 years. They are Goliath. We need help.” Continue…
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 2:56 PM - 0 Comments
With the global population ballooning to seven billion, Science-ish wonders whether journalists around the world are in on a conspiracy to lower birth rates by scaring would-be parents with crazy stories about pregnancy risks. Consider the headlines this week: We learned that “depression in pregnancy can slow a child’s development” and that a mother’s fish and mercury intake is linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity-disorder behaviours in her kids.
This isn’t just the result of a slow news week. Science-ish has been tracking the health stories targeted at expectant parents over the last year, and they have ranged from the silly to the farcical, and always with a dash of fear mongering.
Last September, the BBC reported that eating low-fat yogurt—not the Greek, or half-fat types—during pregnancy may induce asthma and hay fever in children. The Guardian reported on a study that linked a mother’s sleeping position to stillbirths, recommending specifically that she sleep on her left side or else risk having one. Would moms be able to sleep at all after that chilling report? Fox News wrote: “Mother’s hypertension during pregnancy may affect child’s IQ later in life” and that “Women who get pregnant while dieting increase babies’ obesity risk.” And there was no shortage of reporting on the scary chemicals in our environment that can harm wee ones, even before conception. A telling headline from Mother Nature Network: “BPA exposure linked to abnormal egg development.”
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 7:52 AM - 112 Comments
British journalists are not the only ones raising awkward questions about the multitudinous stumbles that have characterized the beginning of the Winter Olympics. They merely attract the most attention, for reasons that have nothing much to do with the truth or falsehood of their criticisms. These reasons include:
1. Cultural cringe: the inherent Canadian awareness of inferiority, and suspicion of condescension, provoked by anything British-accented. No beast is feebler than the Canadian journalist who wraps himself in the flag and rushes tearfully to his typewriter or microphone upon the first hint of perceived sneering at the colonials. Don’t get me wrong: it’s good copy. I saw the technique, used cynically, work like a charm at the ’01 Athletics Worlds here in Edmonton when a couple of old Fleet Street soaks spoke unlacquered truth about the city’s broad streak of Soviet shabbiness. But to engage on that level is to perpetuate the cringe, and besides, there’s reason 2:
2. Criticisms naturally hit harder when they’re written with great force. British writers are vigorous, direct, unflinching, entertainment-minded, and, in general, better at their trade than ours. (Rest assured—they’ll be, if anything, much harder on their own 2012 Summer Games.) Their newspapers are more fun than ours, pay good writers much more, and are doing better as businesses. They are also rank with ethical failings and obnoxious practices, to be sure, but almost all of those arise from trying too hard to get the story, intruding too far into private matters, competing too viciously, overreacting to perceived injustice. The failings of Canada’s press are all, as a rule, on the other side—the side of compromise, laziness, and political correctness. For instance, look no further than reason 3:
3. Canadian journalists covering the Games have, virtually to a man, accepted the premise that the Games provide an accurate moral, artistic, and technical reflection on Canada as a whole. I don’t remember signing that contract, and if I were going to sign one with a city and its business and volunteer communities, I wouldn’t have chosen Vancouver. Are you kidding? Place is screwy! As it happens, Alberta already staked its international reputation on a Winter Olympics, thanks, and did fine. The rest of you are quite welcome to let yourselves be judged on the basis of this fiasco, but as far as I can see, you haven’t been asked.
I hasten to add that the relative success of the 1988 Games—painfully emphasized by the Great Calgary Zamboni Airlift—is not entirely to Alberta’s credit. After all, Beijing put on a heck of an Olympics, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It put on an outstanding show partly for the reasons I wouldn’t want to live there: crushing social homogeneity, one-party government, lack of civil liberties, central economic planning. If the Games needed a row of shacks in Beijing knocked down, they got knocked down, without a lot of paperwork or argument. If industrial pollution was a problem, mills and factories could be shut down arbitrarily for as long as needed to render the air breathable by gweilo weaklings. Protesters delaying VIP access to the Opening Ceremonies? In China? Forget about it. (Literally: forget about it or you’ll be sent to the laogai for re-education.)
I don’t mean to equate Calgary to Beijing, but the factors that allowed Calgary to succeed as an Olympic host probably did include weak political opposition on the municipal and provincial levels; a small, dominant social-financial elite; a certain degree of cultural homogeneity; and a borderline-inappropriate degree of coziness between legislators, regulators, and judges. What you want in an ideal Olympic city is that it be quite rich, very conformist, and a teensy bit crooked. Calgary wouldn’t be as good a host in 2010 as it was in 1988; it’s a more interesting place now.
And Vancouver may have bitten off slightly more than it can chew, precisely because it’s about the most interesting place in the country, in good respects and bad. It’s not a well-oiled machine, it’s a self-sufficient permanent riot. I have always understood its disorder to be part of its glory. I would have put an Olympics on the moon before I’d have put one there.