The acceptable face of journalism : Steve Coogan being interviewed by The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger

“It’s all about being decent” is the line that sums up Steve Coogan’s arguments against the way the press abused their powers and intruded on his privacy.

He has been at the forefront of the campaign to expose the dirty tactics in the UK media and one of the victims of the phone hacking scandal currently being investigated by The Leveson Inquiry.

In a video interview with The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, he looks nervous and uncomfortable but pumped up too. He’s among those who is mad as hell at the and is not prepared  take it anymore.

Coogan constantly states that he is happy to be judged by his work as a popular/populist entertainer but does not accept that being in the public eye means his every move and mistake should be publicly scrutinised.

He openly admits that he is no paragon of virtue and that the break up of his marriage, for instance,  was due to mistakes he made. The point he keeps returning to is that a distinction must be made between what is in the public interest and what is of interest to the public. Implicit in this argument is that if it’s not in the public interest, it shouldn’t be published although he concedes that the root of the problem is that  salacious kiss and tell stories boost newspaper sales and attract viewers.

You may, as Coogan does, bemoan the puerile and  ethically bankrupt nature of tabloid journalism but the growth and success of  media conglomerates like News International sadly prove that the majority want to read juicy gossip and a sensationalized version of the ‘news’.

Coogan cites the Daily Mail as a prime example of what he calls “dehumanizing sensationalism”. This is a newspaper that panders to the lowest common denominator and plays upon the worst fears of its readers but they wouldn’t continue doing this if sales suddenly plummeted.

What happened to Coogan and other celebrities – major and minor – is not an aberration but is systemic of a much wider demise in moral values.

Journalists rightly argue that the freedom of the press is sacrosanct but the bottom line is that this should not give them carte blanche to operate outside the law.

Too many  tabloid hacks  believe they have the right to intrude on private lives in pursuit of a good story. They claim to be exposing immorality and corruption but the reality is that such unscrupulous reporters are symptoms of the disease and not part of the cure.

Yet as long as readers and viewers continue to consume the garbage served up by the gutter press, nothing much will change.

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