Friday, July 15, 2011

The week the news went pop

It was difficult this week to avoid news of The News Of The World’s voicemail ‘hacking’ scandal, and the ripples of shame that emanated from it across the News International group.

It went beyond difficult, and shaded into the impossible, if you share my vice of watching current affairs television programmes and using Twitter to form a national catcalling mob of wisacres.

It wasn’t difficult to find commentators ready to condemn the NotW’s methods. John Prescott and Tom Watson were at the head of a phalanx of politicians and commentators of every political hue eager to stick the boot into Rupert Murdoch and his organisation.

But politics is just show business for ugly people. Show business is show business for pretty people and the News Of The Screws made plenty of enemies in showbiz too.

And you don't need me to tell you that TV prefers pretty people, if it can get them...

The NotW upset, for example, Steve Coogan.

Steve is a comedian and actor who has made some very entertaining television programmes and some ‘ok if you like that sort of thing’ films.

He has also inhaled deep at the dusty altar of cocaine and did some things with prostitutes that I’m sure in the harsh light of day he now regrets.

And he was roasted mercilessly by the tabloids for the entertainment of people who would surely have made the same poor decisions given similar budget and opportunities.

The tabloids also had what news editors call ‘a bit of fun’ with Hugh Grant. Hollywood’s British posho du jour was once arrested with an LA prostitute in his car. She was administering to him The Greatest Love Of All™ in exchange for a small fee.

Both got their right of reply – Grant got his right on more than one occasion – in the forum of the BBC’s  current affairs output this week.

But of course every story needs a villain. And who would be fool enough to pop their head and hands into the virtual stocks of public opinion?

Step forward Paul McMullan, former NotW journalist and a living caricature of the classic tabloid hack image. Viewers on digital were able to press the red button to get an authentic whiff of stale whisky and fags.

It didn’t hurt that he had more than a touch of the Paul Calf about him.

He turned up on Newsnight, Steve Coogan struck down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger.

He popped up on Radio 5 too, and got a severe ticking off from Hugh Grant.

Grant was everywhere this week. He has temporarily become the People’s Paxman, The John Humphrys of Hearts.

And in a week where the lines between current affairs and entertainment had become intoxicatingly blurred, who better to have the last word than popular Shooting Stars panellist, polymath and pigeon lookalike Will Self who unforgettably observed “This whole imbroglio is epiphenomenal”.

I don’t know if it’s been that, but for one magical week the news has been fun.

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