Seeing as the debate over the 'email affair' is going on all over the blogosphere, can we have a mini-debate on one particular aspect of it? To what extent was it justified for the mainstream media to report the content of the 'smears' against prominent Tories in such graphic detail?
It could be argued that without knowing all the details we might have accepted the 'bit of harmless fun' defence, and that it's the detail - in particularly the snide comments about the mental health of someone's wife - that make it all so profoundly unpleasant. And yet, those allegations are now in the public domain, thanks to the newspapers. Yes, they would have no doubt been all over the blogosphere anyway, but that could be used as an excuse to print virtually anything these days.
I assume the newspapers will have consulted their lawyers very carefully, and provided they include phrases such as 'entirely without foundation' or 'totally denied' then they're in the clear. But how many people will think, 'no smoke without fire'? Has the damage now been done? If you were one of the politicians mentioned in the story, would you rather they had, or hadn't, reported it in the way that they did? Couldn't they, for example, have given a basic outline without naming the individuals involved? (As they seem, somewhat mysteriously, to have done for just one of the four stories, which seems to me to be the one genuinely worthy of reporting, if it can at all be substantiated. And that's obviously a big if.)
Going to be absolutely ruthless in editing comments by the way. I'm pretty sure I know what you all think of Messrs Draper and McBride, and there are plenty of other sites where you can continue to express those views to your hearts' content. I'm asking one question: should the press have repeated the 'smears'? Yes or no?