Gutter journalism – will it ever go away?

If UK journalism was a client, its PR agency would probably be dusting off the crisis comms plan this week.

There have been too many examples of individual journalists and organisations trampling over people’s feelings and rights to privacy.

There’s a general consensus that the UK is currently quite fractured, due mainly to the toxic Brexit situation and the wider political chaos it has brought with it. But this week there seems to be a united condemnation of the actions of some newspapers, broadcasters and journalists.

First, we had The Guardian declaring David Cameron had only experienced “privileged pain” over the death of his disabled son Ivan – suggesting he didn’t understand real pain because he’s rich and privileged.

Then we had The Sun using England cricket hero Ben Stokes to sell more copies by raking up a family tragedy from 31 years ago – before Stokes was even born.

Days earlier rugby legend Gareth Thomas had been forced to reveal his HIV status after being blackmailed by a, so far officially unnamed, tabloid. He went on to give interviews that revealed that his parents discovered his HIV status by being door-stepped by a journalist, something he had tried to shield them from and described as a moment he will never get back.

And then there was the case of Omar Salem, who berated Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the state of the NHS before being ‘exposed’ as a Labour activist, as if that made any difference to the fact he was the father of a sick seven day old child who wanted to vent at the person he feels bears some responsibility.

Of course other sections of the media have defended The Sun for running the Stokes story because it was already in the public domain (mainly in New Zealand) and the person who ‘sold’ the story had a right to do so; and the likes of BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who was one of many to retweet the ‘expose’ on Omar Salem.

The Sun, in particular, has a long and chequered history of upsetting large swathes of people. It has been boycotted in Liverpool for more than 30 years following its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, and recent stories are certain to have turned more readers away. Yet it is STILL the biggest selling newspaper in the UK – and has probably been discussed more this week than any newspaper since the News of the World scandal – so will it really care?

While there appears to be a bit of a public backlash against these sensationalist stories and media activity right now we still need to access real news – so Its unlikely to ever stop.

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