Watch this. It’s a bit long, but it’s worth it.
It’s a debate that took place last week on Newnight between Nick Davies from the Guardian and Jules Stenson, who was features editor of the News of the World.
As well as being about a topic of great interest to those in the media – the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking – it is also worth watching for the way the debate develops.
The presenter is the Grand Inquisitor of Newsnight himself, Jeremy Paxman, but for much of it, he’s strangely quiet – he generally just lets the two key guests slug it out.
And they both do things we’d advise our media training to avoid.
Firstly Nick Davies from the Guardian repeatedly tells Jeremy Paxman that he’s got it wrong and misunderstood the evidence.
Generally it’s a big mistake to criticise your interviewer as it’s bound to put their back up so they give you a harder time than they might otherwise have done.
In this debate, Jeremy Paxman rather surprisingly lets Nick Davies get away with it. Maybe because he’s from the Guardian, he’s an extremely distinguished investigative journalist and Jeremy’s sympathies are basically with him!
And secondly, Jules Stenson continually says that he has not come onto the programme to defend the behaviour of the News of the World or the Sun, but to examine the journalistic practices of the Guardian.
Come on. Get real. If you go on a TV programme to discuss an issue, you cannot seriously expect your own organisation’s behaviour not to come under scrutiny.
And you have to be aware that if you’re billed as ‘former News of the World features editor’, you are representing that organisation, so you may be asked about anything connected to it.
Overall, Jules Stenson came off worse and did his cause no favours.
His most extraordinary comment however was to Anne Diamond, who had been given a hard time by the Sun after her baby died of cot death.
Her trauma he more or less dismissed as ‘it happened 20 years ago’, as if it therefore didn’t matter.
Oh yes it does.