Guardian journalist Nick Davies, famous for his investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire uncovering the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, visited Brunel University and spoke to young journalists.
He came with the latest news that George Clooney is to adapt of his book “Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch” and is planning to put the plot to film.
“Clooney is a serious guy and makes films that say something important about the world”, commented Davies.
The legend of investigative journalism said his book isn’t just a story about hacking voice mail messages or journalists’ behavior, it’s the story about power and the abuse of it.
For those studying journalism, he talked about uncovering stories, techniques and the most significant works of his life that, which travelled around the world and had a huge impact. Including investigations based on thousands of secret military documents released by the website WikiLeaks and uncovering the phone hacking affair.
The phone hacking scandal began from the small thing - an appointment that Prince William had made with a knee surgeon that suddenly leaked out to the News of the World. That had become the trigger for the Metropolitan Police investigation.
“It was horribly clear that The Scotland Yard, with thousands of officers, was extremely reluctant to get into a fight with Rupert Murdoch and his four newspapers”, said Davies.
However there was the British Royal Family, who have more prestige and more power even than Rupert; who conducted an inquiry, and brought a case to court. The News of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman was charged with listening to the voice mail of three people who worked in Clarence House. The private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was charged with helping him to do that, and then he was also charged with listening to the voicemails of five other people, who had no connection to the Royal Family. The “no sense” aspect is what triggered Davies’ journalistic investigation. The story had enormous consequences that led to setting up of the Leveson Inquiry and more than 210 arrests. “Phone hacking is not just a story of a journalists behaving badly, that’s the failure of the police and the press regulation, the combination of a human interest and power”, said the journalist.
According to Davies, human sources are the most important, the most interesting and skilful area for the reporter to find those who possibly know the truth. “But the most interesting information is always scary and people who possess it usually are afraid of talking, they are under pressure. And here you have to know what would motivate them to speak”.
Nick Davies told the young journalists how he established the partnership of The Guardian and WikiLeaks. He contacted Australian publisher Julian Assange in Brussels and suggested that professional reporters should share the WikiLeaks data with the world.
Davies was asked the question - How do journalists find stories? “We don’t get stories from secret contacts, we get them off the wire from the press associations, like Reuters, we get them from the PR industry, recycling “second-hand” information from this sources”, said Davies. “A journalist has to think unlike normal people, we are abnormal, freaks. It’s a question of training yourself to spot the little things that are out of place, that make you say: “Hang on, that doesn’t make sense”. That’s how finding stories begins. And then you use your imagination which is the most powerful tool that a reporter has”, he revealed.