All in the public interest
I was listening out on BBC Essex for the snow forecast in the car this morning and stayed tuned in when I heard an interesting interview about Lance Armstrong’s recent confessions.
The Sunday Times sports correspondent on the phone line, David Walsh, was recounting how the paper was dragged through the libel mill by Armstrong who ‘as good as’ defeated the paper. They paid £300,000 in an out of court settlement and the same again for their own expenses after they referred to L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong, the book he co-wrote with French sports journo.
The reporter had a hunch about Armstrong all along based on scepticism by French sports journalists who were in the know about cycling and ‘The Tour’ (read his excellent article: Lance Armstrong: Drugs, denials and me). His newspaper article headlines also included ‘Saddled with suspicion’ and ‘Paradise lost on tour’.
I think the recent Leveson Inquiry, that is based on well-founded horror about phone hacking, has also sadly made the public question the investigative work of good journalists who are there to uncover the truth.
Many brilliant reporters, like David Walsh, put themselves on the line for a cause and pursue years of research. It’s easy to forget that reporting is primarily ‘in the public interest’, not to cause public outrage.
In the Armstrong case this is the ‘interest’ of athletes and teams that have been through the gruelling regime of the Tour De France, only to miss out on the number one spot when he took the title seven times.