Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What the Papers Say...

Why isn't anyone making more of the fact that the News of the World apparently employed private detectives to 'find stories' for them? Surely that's what journalists are meant to do for themselves, isn't it? Find stories, I mean. Not hire private detectives. Obviously. I'm not sure what a private detective can do to 'find a story' that a journalist can't do for themselves. Unless Hollywood, cheap paperback novels and 1970s TV series have lied to me, newspaper hacks have networks of contacts who feed them bits of information, which then set them off on some great journalistic crusade which culminates in them uncovering some sinister conspiracy at the heart of government. If that fails, they can always 'doorstep' people, stalk them, sorry, put them under surveillance, or even illegally intercept their mail and phone calls. Just like a private eye. But probably cheaper. Still, in this age of 'outsourcing' everything, I guess it makes sense that tabloid journalists hire someone else to actually do their job for them. I'm only surprised that they don't sub lease the work to private investigators based in India.

Indeed, judging by my, admittedly limited, experience of real life British private detectives, they might as well get someone in Mumbai to investigate goings on in London. Part of my day job involves establishing whether certain individuals are actually living at certain addresses, and ascertaining the trading status of certain businesses. Now, I generally find this information by actually going out and visiting the addresses and businesses in person, knocking on doors and asking questions. Pretty straightforward. You'd be surprised at the number of times my reports are challenged by clients, claiming that they've had a private investigator establish that the individual definitely does live there, or that the business in question is still trading from a particular premises. In every one of these cases, a look at the investigator's report shows that they never actually left their own office - which is usually hundreds of miles from my patch in Crapchester. Instead, they've simply consulted online databases of dubious quality, or out-of-date telephone directories and electoral registers. Consequently, I'm amazed that the private detectives employed by the News of the World ever managed to find any stories for the paper, unless they stumbled across them on the web. To be frank, the News of the World's journalists would have been better off going back to basics and simply making up their stories. Just like they used to i the good old days.

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