The question has recently arisen as to whether it is ever right for a journalist to hoax a person into divulging certain facts or opinions that said person might not otherwise divulge. This week, the English Football Association told England soccer coach Sven Goran Eriksson that his contract would end immediately after the World Cup tournament in July, following comments Eriksson made to a News of the World journalist posing as someone else, the “fake Sheikh”.
Now, in the increasingly trivial world of British public life, all this might be of interest only to those who follow team sports. I know that a good many readers of this site probably do not give a damn about sporting contests but who might be troubled about the News of the World’s antics in this case. That newspaper conned a man into giving an interview. It deliberately misled Eriksson, who divulged some not-terribly-interesting facts about members of the England team and about his ambitions in the future. (Try to suppress your yawns, Ed).
Even so, some might argue that if the News of the World was trying to nail a terrorist suspect, say, that such subterfuge might be okay. Well, maybe. But what this latest episode has done is to further reduce the already-low reputation of the press, sow further paranoia about the media’s activities and hence give further ammunition to those in power who want to shackle the media. And all for a pathetic story about a venal Swede with an eye for the main chance and the ladies. How terribly British.
This writer seems to agree that there has not been nearly enough anger about what the NotW did. I hope that newspaper is made to suffer for its actions, although I suspect nothing much will be done. Had that paper been a business conning trade secrets from a rival, criminal charges might now be on the cards.