For eight months, journalists from the biggest global news organisations have devoted every waking working minute to covering events at the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey in London.
The hacks’ views on the hacking trial have until now been strictly off limits, but now that the verdicts are in and reporting restrictions have lifted, The Drum caught up with the journalists at the heart of Britain’s biggest ever media trial for their verdicts on the coverage.
For Nick Davies of the Guardian, the journalist who uncovered the phone-hacking scandal, the huge media interest was a far cry from the early days of the scandal breaking.
“The weird thing from my point of view is I spent three years trying to dig out this story for the Guardian, and with a few noble exceptions the rest of Fleet Street wouldn’t cover it for various, rather nasty reasons, and yet now that we’ve got to this stage they’re piling in in huge numbers to pick up the leftovers.”
According to the Independent’s political correspondent, James Cusick, the media excelled itself in its knowledge of the law, and made the UK’s media stand out for the right reasons.
“The media coverage has been excellent, the level of knowledge of the media has been exceptional,” he said. “I’ve been in this court a large number of years and I thought the level of expertise, what was required, the detailed knowledge of large parts of the law, not just criminal law but other parts, was exceptional, and I think the coverage in the UK probably showed that.”
Robin Brant of the BBC agreed, adding that trial judge Mr Justice Saunders had no complaints over the media’s handling of huge swathes of evidence over eight months.
“I think in terms of the media coverage it’s been exceptional really, there have been no complaints from the judge about our conduct, the nature of our reporting, the content of our reporting. [There have been] some complaints from some of the legal teams but I think that’s to be expected. [The coverage has] been accurate, exceptionally quick at times.”
Social media was the big newcomer on the scene, and for one Private Eye journalist – who admits he’s straying from the company line – it brought a “fascinating” edge to the trial.
“Obviously being a Private Eye journalist, I’m obliged to take the company line that new media and digital and Twitter and all this stuff is complete nonsense,” said Adam Macqueen. “Actually, I think it’s been fantastically useful and it’s really interesting the way it’s been used in this trial.
“It’s been fascinating to see the number of people who are following it who aren’t necessarily mainstream newspaper readers and wouldn’t follow a criminal trial this closely.”
For some hacks, the sense of humour of judge Mr Justice Saunders was a memorable take away from the last eight months, while for others the incident with the Queen’s nuts raised a smile. As for Charlie Brooks and what he was really doing on his laptop during his wife’s evidence, Nick Davies has the answer… to find out, watch the video above.