As a consequence of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the UK press became the focus of a heated public debate. Many questions were asked, and several answers offered. The press had behaved badly and needed to be tamed (Leveson 2012a, p. 195, para. 1.1–1.4). But how? Who guards the guardian? How can press regulation be strengthened? How can the press regain its trust? What does this spell for democracy? These were some of the questions asked, as politicians, journalists, the police, the judiciary and other citizens deliberated on how to ensure a viable press: one that can sustain rather than destroy democracy. Thus, the media became an arena for a heated debate on how to make the press more accountable, if at all. This book analyses how this debate was represented by the press. The aims are to challenge the press to serve as a democratic public sphere during debates about their policy, to enlighten readers on how the media represent debates about their policy and to stir up discussions on how to get the public to be more involved in media reform. I argue that the way debates about media policy are covered is partly responsible for the continuous emergence of weak press reforms. As a brief background on the scandal is essential for an understanding of my analysis of the debate, that will be my starting point.

The News of the World phone hacking scandal turned the British politico-media complex upside down. Newspaper editors, media owners, journalists, private investigators and even the police were placed in the spotlight for their role in the scandal. The phone hacking scandal came to light in 2005 when some staff of the News of the World were accused of hacking the phones of members of the British Royal Family (Keeble and Mair 2012, p. 9; Davies 2014). The police report on investigations carried out between 2005 and 2007 declared that the crime was perpetrated by one “rogue” reporter, royal editor, Clive Goodman, and a private detective, Glen Mulcaire (Jones and Norton 2014, pp. 147–148). The report concluded that the victims were a handful of public figures (Lewis 2013, p. 72; Davies 2014). However, further investigations in 2011 revealed that not only was phone hacking widespread at the News of the World but that bribes were paid to police for information, and the voicemails of crime victims and their relations were intercepted in search of scoops (Keeble and Mair 2012, p. 9; Davies 2014).

The list of identified and alleged victims of the phone hacking contained more than 4000 names (Christopher 2012, p. 114) including a murdered school girl, 13-year-old Amanda Jane “Milly” Dowler; victims of the July 7 (2005) London bombings and relatives of deceased British soldiers (Davies 2014; Marsh and Melville 2014, p. 147). The case of hacking into the phone of the murdered school girl, in particular, resulted in public outcry against the News of the World possibly because this signalled extension of the use of subterfuge by the media to members of the public who were not public figures. News on the phone hacking scandal flooded front pages and headlines of the media worldwide; advertisers withdrew patronage from the newspaper and on 7 July 2011, the company announced the closure of the News of the World. The newspaper published its last edition on 10 July 2011 with the caption “Thank You and Good Bye”, bringing to an end its 168 years of publication (Keeble and Mair 2012, p. 12; Davies 2014).

The controversy did not end with the closure of the News of the World (also referred to as NoTW in this study). By 2014, there had been more than 100 arrests linked to the scandal; 63 of them journalists, including Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International and Andy Coulson, a former NoTW editor who became the then Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesperson after his resignation from the newspaper during the first phase of investigations into the scandal (Ponsford 2014). Andy Coulson resigned from his position as David Cameron’s spokesperson in the heat of the second phase of the controversy. He was among those who received jail sentences for their role in the scandal, while Rebekah Brooks and a few others were found not guilty (Davies 2014). Other casualties of the scandal include a number of high-profile resignations. Among them were two top police officers: Sir Paul Stephenson who was the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and John Yates, the then Assistant Commissioner in charge of specialist operations. Both resigned from their duties because of their role, or lack of it, in the investigation of the scandal (Christopher 2012, pp. 112–144).

News International (now News UK as part of a rebranding after the scandal—BBC News2013), a subsidiary of News Corporation and parent company to the News of the World, spent over £400 million for civil litigation settlement of claims from victims of the phone hacking, with the likelihood of more settlement claims ahead (Simon 2019). In the midst of the scandal, News Corporation (as then constituted) had to withdraw its bid for the complete takeover of BskyB (Keeble and Mair 2012, p. 12). However, the bid was relaunched in 2016, through Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox company but it was lost to Comcast in 2018 (King 2016; Waterson 2018).

There were further allegations as well as confirmations that journalists from other newspapers (including papers in the Trinity Mirror group which rebranded as Reach in 2018) were involved in phone hacking and other unwholesome journalistic practices (BBC News2018). It became clear early in the controversy that this was not just about the News of the World but about the press industry. Very importantly, this scandal led to the setting up of the Leveson Inquiry. The Leveson Inquiry (2012f) was arguably one of the most significant events in British newspaper history because it cast a much-needed critical eye over the ethical practices and culture of the press. This book examines the ways in which sections of the mainstream British press represented the ongoing debate about press ethics and the strategies they undertook to protect themselves from the threat of tighter regulation. A flurry of media coverage presented the ensuing press reform debate from different perspectives. Thus, the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry provided a veritable opportunity for an investigation into how the media cover debates about their policy.

The study of how the media cover debates about their policy is important because of the susceptibility of the media to abuse their power to control information when covering issues in which they have interests and the adverse effect this could have on the quality of media policies. Other institutions in society have little or no say on what or how much about them is published by the press. The situation is different for the press because since they have the power to receive and disseminate information, they can choose what information about themselves is made public. This gatekeeping power of journalism gives the institution enormous powers which are prone to abuse when they cover debates about their policies. The media can use their gatekeeping and agenda-setting powers to influence decisions and opinion in favour of their position in a debate. They can also limit the information available in the public sphere by keeping silent on issues they do not wish discussed in such debates. When this occurs during the coverage of debates about media policy, it reduces the quality of information available to policymakers and members of the public on how to reform the press (see Chap. 2). This book shows how this was done during the coverage of the media policy debate that arose from the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. This debate is also referred to in this book as the press reform or media policy debate.

One way to sustain democracy is to hold the powerful in society to account. The media are powerful and as such should be held to account through regular analyses of how they cover issues in which they have interests. The study of media self-coverage serves as a media accountability system by stimulating the media to cover themselves based on democratic principles. Such studies can identify when the media are taking advantage of their power to control information and make recommendations accordingly. It can equip the public with knowledge of how to consume journalistic metadiscourse so that can they make informed decisions about media policy. The study of news self-coverage also helps to highlight the importance of press coverage of media issues and the consequences the manner of coverage could have for democracy. Such consequences could range from limiting the access of other stakeholders to public debates on media reform to the emergence of weak media policies that cannot guarantee an accountable press as was the case with the coverage of the media reform debate. Chaps. 8, 9 and 10 will expand on this.

With regard to weak media policies, a number of incidents have taken place after the media reform efforts that followed the NoTW phone hacking scandal that raise questions about the strength of the reforms that followed the scandal. When the Leveson Inquiry was set up, it was hoped that it will make up for decades of unsuccessful efforts at taming the press (ensuring it does not abuse its powers) but several happenings after Leveson that raise doubts about the quality of the reforms made, making an investigation into how to avert weak press reforms essential.

For instance, in an article entitled “Sam Allardyce, the Telegraph and Another IPSO Failure” Cathcart’s (2018) criticised both the Daily Telegraph and IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) for their poor handling of complaints of inaccuracies and misleading information in the Daily Telegraph’s publication of an article on the then England football manager, Sam Allardyce. Cathcart’s criticism relates to the Daily Telegraph’s publication headlined “Exclusive investigation: England manager Sam Allardyce for sale” (Daily Telegraph2016). The news story reported that “Sam Allardyce used his position as England manager to negotiate a £400,000 deal and offered advice to businessmen on how to “get around” FA rules on player transfers” (Daily Telegraph2016). The video recordings which led to Allardyce’s resignation of his job as the England football manager was later found to have been distorted by the newspaper to give the impression that Allardyce was corrupt and that this was a scandal. The fact that the story was sourced through covert recording of reporters posing as businessmen raises questions about how much the press has changed after the media reform efforts that followed the phone hacking scandal.

Many of the arguments in the media reform debate were based on lay and specialist normative theories of the press because the debate was about press standards and normative theory relates to expectations on how the media ought to behave in order to be useful to society (McQuail 2010, p. 14). Since Britain like most Western nations functions as a liberal democracy, my analysis of the debate is based on liberal ideologies of democracy, specifically the neoliberal variant of the libertarian theory (Siebert et al. 1956; McQuail 2010) and the ideology of social democracy (Pickard 2015; Schlosberg 2017). These theories are relevant to this study on two levels: firstly, media coverage in Western democracies are often guided by these ideologies; secondly, previous studies show that arguments in media policy debates have drawn from these two ideologies.

Several scholars agree that journalism plays a vital role in the sustenance of democracy (Herman and Chomsky 2008; Lee-Wright et al. 2012, p. 3). Did the press fulfil its democratic function in its coverage of the press reform debate? Did it provide a space for public debate where citizens can participate in governance by deliberating on issues that concern them without any form of marginalisation? To what extent did it do this, if at all? To effectively answer these questions, this book engages with the public sphere concept (Habermas 1989; Fraser 1992). The public sphere concept, as used in this book, relates to the normative expectation that the media ought to function as a space where all stakeholders of a debate can contribute to the discussion, irrespective of their status (Habermas 1989). Normatively, that would require the press to give proportionate access to various stakeholders in a debate; bring alternative views to the public sphere for discussion and encourage deliberations including constructive criticism, amongst others. The question is, “do the media do these when they cover debates about their policies?” Many scholars say that has not been the case (Carlson and Berkowitz 2014; Thomas and Finneman 2014).

Previous studies on metajournalistic discourse pointed out that media coverage of the press is often characterised by certain paradigm repair strategies (Carlson and Berkowitz 2014). The term “paradigm repair” was used by Bennett et al. (1985) to describe “how journalistic self-criticism protects existing paradigms rather than confronts entrenched deficiencies and contradictions” (cited in Carlson 2015, p. 4). The notion of paradigm repair has been employed by previous scholars to examine how the press cover themselves in relation to objectivity (Reese 1990, 1997); fabrications (Hindman 2005; Carlson 2009); reporting errors (Cecil 2002); paparazzi (Berkowitz 2000; Bishop 1999), scapegoating (Berger 2008); media scandal (Carlson and Berkowitz 2014) and press standards (Thomas and Finneman 2014). Studies on journalistic metadiscourse identified four strategies employed by the media to protect an existing paradigm. They include the paradigm strategies of “threat to the paradigm” or “catastrophisation”, self-assertion also known as self-affirmation, minimisation and individualisation or localisation (Berkowitz 2000; Cecil 2002; Thomas and Finneman 2014). My investigation into how the press covered the debate that arose from the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry revealed that these strategies were employed in the coverage of the press reform debate.

Content analysis and some principles from Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis were used to examine the coverage of the debate in six of the top ten British national newspapers (based on combined print and online readership figures for April 2011 to March 2012—Source: NRS PADD 2012). The papers are Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Mirror and The Sun. I decided to examine national newspapers because of their nationwide reach. Though an examination of other media platforms’ coverage of the debate would be beneficial, I consider the newspaper a good starting point because of its place of significance in the debate (the scandal involved a national newspaper and the inquiry’s focus was on the printed press). This research can be built upon in future studies in the form of a comparison between the printed press’ coverage versus the broadcast or Web news coverage of this debate. The following section provides a synopsis of the existing literature on the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry to make clear the contribution of this book to the broad literature.

The Broad Literature on the Phone Hacking Scandal and the Leveson Inquiry

At the time of my investigation, the body of literature on the media coverage of the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry was still in its early stages. Much of what had been written was on the debate itself, and not on how it was covered by the press. There was need for detailed scholarly literature on how this debate, which had the potential to change the future of British journalism, was covered by the press. The body of literature on the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry comprised of debates on how to regulate the press (e.g. see Bloy 2012; Carney 2012); how journalism ethics is and ought to be taught in the UK’s higher institutions of learning (Petley 2012; Harding 2012b); and narratives of the scandal and the Leveson Inquiry (Davies 2014). Analysts in related fields of practice had also written about the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry but mostly as a small part of a wider discussion (Curtis et al. 2013). Only few empirical studies had been done on the coverage of the media policy debate that arose from the phone hacking scandal and/or the Leveson Inquiry (Ramsay 2013, 2014; Carlson and Berkowitz 2014; Thomas and Finneman 2014), and not many of the studies went beyond the stage of the Leveson Inquiry.

While studies that covered the debate up to that point have been very useful, so much has happened after the inquiry that is worth examining—Sir Brian Leveson has presented his report; the press presented their own Royal Charter which was rejected; the government has set up the Royal Charter on press regulation which much of the press rejected and they have set up their own IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation); and IMPRESS, the first press regulator recognised by the Press Recognition Panel of the Royal Charter on Press Self-Regulation, has been set up (IMPRESS 2016; Mayhew 2016). This book fills the gap in the body of literature by providing in-depth analysis of the coverage of the debate beyond the stage of the Leveson Inquiry. As stated earlier, the aim is to present and analyse how the debate was covered; hoping that by so doing, I will enlighten readers on how the coverage of media policy contributes to weak media reforms; how to consume journalistic metadiscourse on media policy; and some of the steps that can result in the creation of effective media policies. In the following paragraphs, I take a closer look at the existing literature on the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry and the press standards debate that followed. By examining how similar or different they are to the content of this book, I intend to highlight this book’s contribution to the broad literature.

The literature on how ethics are and ought to be taught on journalism courses across universities in the UK, which was often tagged “Teaching after Leveson” (Cathcart 2011; Harding 2012b), disclosed that ethics was only a minor part of the accredited courses in the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) curriculum. It demonstrated that journalism students in UK were taught to know their boundaries in terms of press regulations and media law but were not necessarily taught ethics in detail. The concern of this aspect of the phone hacking scandal and Leveson Inquiry literature is to examine whether teachers of journalism in the nation’s universities played a role in encouraging or averting such press misconducts as exemplified in the phone hacking scandal. The literature proffered changes to how journalism is taught in Universities across Britain “after Leveson”.

For instance, after the seating of the Leveson Inquiry, Harding (2012b) carried out an empirical study on the teaching of journalism studies in the UK. The study which was done under the auspices of the NCTJ was aimed at finding out the views of stakeholders (including academics and media executives) in the industry on the teaching of journalism prior to the phone hacking scandal. Most of those interviewed were dissatisfied with how it had been done in the past and agreed that there is need for a change (ibid.). This, they argue, would require placing premium on the teaching of ethics in journalism courses across the UK. The study also showed that there was a wide consensus among stakeholders that revelations at the Leveson Inquiry on how ethics had been taught in journalism courses across the nation’s Universities dented the integrity of the teachers in particular, and the profession in general. Though a few academics expressed fears that the debate on ethics would lead to the stifling of good journalism, majority posited that “ethics do matter and matter a lot” (Greenslade and Harding 2013, n.p.). Harding’s (2012b) recommendations included a mid-career ethical training for all journalists. Though how ethics are taught on journalism courses has implications for democracy, the literature differs from the focus of this book in the sense that their object of study was media studies practitioners and not practising journalists.

Some practising journalists authored works on the scandal and the Leveson Inquiry but their focus was mostly on the narrative of the scandal or on the debate, not its media coverage (Dacre 2011; Keeble and Mair 2012, pp. 6–15; Davies 2014). In line with Thompson’s (2000, p. 36) observation that journalists and participants of scandals who have some form of insider knowledge write books and articles that “retell the stories of particular scandals” from different points of view, the Guardian’s Nick Davies (2014) wrote Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch, a book which gives an insider account of how the scandal at News of the World unfolded. Using the first-person narrative, Davies tells how he got wind of the unlawful activities that went on at News of the World and how along with some lawyers, MPs and celebrities, he was able to hold News of the World and its owner, Rupert Murdoch, to account (ibid.).

His work, which drew from exclusive interviews with private investigators, journalists, politicians, police officers and staff of the newspaper, tells of the unlawful activities that went on in the newsroom of News of the World (ibid.). Davies (2014, p. 76) described in detail how private investigators hacked phones for journalists; how they listened to live calls and bribed the police for information. The work also tells of how News International (now News UK) attempted to cover up the extent of its involvement in phone hacking with lies and money, how press regulators shirked their responsibility and failed to call the newspaper’s erring staff to account and how corrupt police officers broke official secrecy rules for money (Davies 2014). The author also narrates how politicians in power gave Rupert Murdoch privileged access to government, allowing him and his staff to intimidate anyone who stood up to them (ibid.). Davies’ (2014) publication differs from this book in the sense that it is only a narrative of the controversy and does not show how the media covered it. This study acknowledges the relevance of this narrative to the body of literature on the scandal and does not attempt to replicate this effort. So, unlike Davies (2014), my work does not deal directly with the scandal but with the press reform debate that arose from it and how this debate was covered by the media. However, basic knowledge of the scandal story will help the reader grasp the essence of the debate; that is why a brief narrative on the phone hacking scandal was provided earlier in this chapter.

An example of works in related fields of practice that have discussed the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry as a small part of a wider conversation is (Marsh and Melville 2014). In their book Crime, Justice and the Media, the authors gave the phone hacking scandal as an example of secondary victimisation. This is a brief explanation of media involvement in secondary victimisation using the phone hacking as an example (Marsh and Melville 2014, p. 147). It explained how victims of phone hacking such as the murdered school girl Milly Dowler, victims of the July 7 (2005) London bombings and celebrities were all sufferers of secondary victimisation. Here, the scandal literature served as a tool for studies on the criminal justice system. In the field of law in particular, the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry have formed parts of larger discussions on human rights, privacy and defamation (Smartt 2014, pp. 110–111).

There have been a few works written on how the media covered the debate that followed the phone hacking scandal. Very relevant among them are Thomas and Finneman’s (2014) “Who watches the watchdogs? British newspaper meta-discourse on the Leveson Inquiry”; Carlson and Berkowitz’s (2014) “ ‘The emperor lost his clothes’: Rupert Murdoch, News of the World and journalistic boundary work in the UK and USA”; and Ramsay’s (2014) study on “How newspapers covered regulation after Leveson”. Similar to my analysis in this book, Carlson and Berkowitz (2014) employed the notion of paradigm repair to analyse journalistic metadiscourse. By comparing the US press coverage of the phone hacking scandal with that of the UK, Carlson and Berkowitz (2014) were able to show the differences in how the two countries used boundary work to articulate appropriate practices through their definition of deviant behaviour. Thomas and Finneman (2014) skipped the phone hacking scandal to focus on the press coverage of the Leveson Inquiry. Also using the notion of paradigm repair, their study revealed that the British press has “an institutional ideology that is quick to assert rights but largely resistant to notions of attendant responsibilities” (ibid., p. 172).

One way in which my work differs from those of Thomas and Finneman (2014) and Carlson and Berkowitz (2014) is that their investigations did not go beyond the Leveson Inquiry. While their studies are useful contributions to the body of literature on the media coverage of the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, they did not examine, for example, reactions to Lord Justice Leveson’s report and the setting up of the Royal Charter on press regulation. Reactions to the coverage of these and other events that followed revealed trends in the coverage of media policy that are beneficial to study. In addition to exploring news coverage of the media policy debate beyond the Leveson Inquiry, this book added one more paradigm repair strategy, historicisation, to Thomas and Finneman’s (2014) four paradigmatic strategies (catastrophisation, self-affirmation, minimisation and localisation) to make allowance for the use of durational modes of analysis in the study of journalistic metadiscourse (see Chap. 5). It is one thing to say something is paradigmatic but the extent to which it is paradigmatic also matters. For example, Carlson and Berkowitz (2014) and Thomas and Finneman (2014) pointed out that the press asserted its usefulness (the strategy of self-affirmation); this book goes beyond that to show the extent to which the press asserted its usefulness, by providing statistical data (see Chap. 7), thus providing more details in the form of data on the level of application of some paradigmatic strategies.

This book contributes to the body of literature on the phone hacking scandal; the Leveson Inquiry; the coverage of media policy and journalistic metadiscourse by providing an in-depth analysis of the coverage of the media policy debate that arose from the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. It posits that the way the media cover debates about their policy is partly responsible for the emergence of weak media reforms. Using statistical data and remarkable examples from news articles, this book shows how the media failed to serve as a democratic public sphere during the debate on press standards that followed the phone hacking scandal. It also expands on existing knowledge on metajournalistic discourse (discourse about discourse on journalism) and provides statistical data to back up arguments on how the media cover debates about their policy. The scope and organisation of this book is summarised in the next subsection.

Organisation of This Book

This book is made up of 11 chapters. Chapter 2 presents key subjects of the media reform debate that followed the NoTW phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. They include arguments relating press freedom, the public interest, privacy and media ownership. On press freedom, the chapter discusses its definition, the history of press freedom in the UK and its relationship with freedom of expression as spelt out in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act of 1998. The debate about press freedom is often linked to the “public’s right to know”. The press is endowed with the privilege of breaking some laws in order to let the public know, if the news is in the public interest but what is the “public interest”? A brief background on the controversy about the meaning of the public interest is provided in this section. Many instances where the media were criticised for misusing “the public interest” clause have been on issues relating to the invasion of privacy. Therefore, this chapter discusses the tensions between the “public interest” and the right of citizens to have a private life.

My analysis of the debate about privacy draws from Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Some studies have argued that the media’s abuse of the public interest clause by invading the privacy of members of the public is the reason for the reduction of public trust in the press (Petley 2013). Scholars like McChesney (2008) attribute the blame for lack of trust in the media to media owners who exploit the press’ privileged position for selfish gains. This chapter highlights key debates on concentration of media ownership, comparing neoliberal perspectives with the political economy critique on media ownership. These perspectives on concentration of media ownership feature prominently in debates about media policy as such knowledge of these views is essential for effective analysis and comprehension of how the press cover debates about media ownership.

Chapter 3 extends the discussion of key debates on media policy to press regulation. It provides a brief background information on press regulation in the UK. It does this through a historical analysis of press regulation in the UK from the 1949 press commission to the Leveson Inquiry (2012). Efforts to regulate the press are critically analysed. Chapter 4 explores normative theories and ideologies of the press in relation to the coverage of media policy debates. The normative theories and ideologies examined are the neoliberal variant of the libertarian theory, the ideology of social democracy and the concept of the public sphere. Reviewing these ideologies and theories in relation to the coverage of media policy gives us insight into the logic behind the different styles of coverage of debates on media policy. To establish the role of the media in the coverage of media reform debates within a democratic society, the chapter examines the meaning and importance of democracy, the role of the press in a democratic society and various conceptions of the public sphere (Habermas 1989; Fraser 1992; Ornebring and Jonsson 2004). The chapter employs the public sphere concept both as “platform” (a space for citizens’ participation in public debates) and as “discourse” (demonstrating that multiple discursive publics can emerge from journalism’s interpretive community) especially when the media attempt to maintain their boundaries in journalistic metadiscourse.

Chapter 5 attempts to make clear the difference between metajournalistic discourse and journalistic metadiscourse while arguing for a new definition of metacoverage. Clear definitions of these terms will promote understanding of their use in the book and will contribute to the academic literature on metacoverage. From clarification of terms, I move on to introduce the term “paradigm repair” and explain the paradigm repair strategies explored in my analysis of the media reform debate. Previous academic literature identified four paradigm repair strategies used in the coverage of debates about journalism. They are “threat to the paradigm”, self-assertion, minimisation and individualisation (Reese 1990; Cecil 2002; Thomas and Finneman 2014). I add to these the strategy of historicisation. These strategies will be used in Chaps. 6, 7 and 8 to explain how the press covered the debate that followed the NoTW phone hacking scandal. Chapter 5 also gives insight into the research on which discussions in this book are based. It explains the method used for the study. Content analysis was supplemented by critical discourse analysis to show how six British national newspapers covered the media policy debate. Two newspapers from each classification of British newspapers (broadsheet, mid-markets and tabloids) were examined. This leads to analysis of the findings in the following chapters.

Chapters 6, 7 and 8 show how various paradigm repair strategies were used in the coverage of the media reform debate and discuss the implication of the type of coverage for efforts at reforming the press and for democracy. Chapter 6 discusses how the strategies of “historicisation” and “threat to the paradigm” were used in the debate. The chapter shows how the “threat to the paradigm” strategy emerged as the dominant theme in the coverage. Chapter 7 discusses how the strategies of individualisation and self-assertion were utilised in the coverage of the media policy debate. Using the concept of political economy, it shows how blame was attributed for press bad behaviour in the journalistic metadiscourse. Chapter 8 shows how the strategy of minimisation was employed in an effort to downplay the phone hacking scandal and the institution set up to investigate the culture, ethics and practice of the press. These chapters aspire to enlighten readers on how the media cover debates about their policies so that they can separate the wheat from the chaff when they consume journalistic metadiscourse on media policy. In order words, they can discern when an article or argument on press reform is predicated on self-interest and when it is for the public good. The chapter aspires to contribute to the development of an informed citizenry who can actively and intelligently participate in debates about media policy.

Using statistical data from my content analysis of 870 news articles, Chaps. 9 and 10 evaluate how the media served as a democratic sphere in their coverage of the press reform debate. In Chap. 9, I show how sources were used in news articles on the debate. The sources were categorised into press-related sources, policymakers, press-abuse-victims-related sources, Leveson and Royal Charter, judiciary, police and ordinary members of the public. Attempts at regulating the press are often enmeshed in both adversarial and reciprocal relationships between the press and policymakers. This chapter also examines this relationship. The goal is to bring to the fore behaviours (conscious or subconscious) of journalists and policymakers that have impacted on the creation of media policies. Chapter 10 expands on how the media represent debates about their policy focusing on the hierarchy of importance accorded to different arguments and issues of concern in the debate. Hierarchy of importance was measured using the inverted pyramid structure of news writing where the most important details in the news appear at the top of the narrative structure. By assessing the use of sources and the hierarchy of importance accorded to issues in the debate, the chapter reveals the extent to which the media served as a democratic public sphere in these areas.

Chapter 10 also reveals and analyses alternative views that emerged in the journalistic metadiscourse on the press reform debate. The alternative views identified include “strengthen checks on media ownership concentration”, “enforce existing laws on crimes such as phone hacking”, “avoid all forms of Royal Charter”, “a cultural revolution of journalists and proprietors is key to press reform”, “some level of privacy invasion is a necessary hazard of a free press” and “do not expect too much from the press”. Possible reasons for the lack of engagement with some of these views are offered along with their potential for media reform. Chapter 11, which is the final chapter, highlights key arguments in this book; it makes recommendations on how the media can serve as a democratic public sphere, a space where robust debates on media reform can take place. This book posits that such debates can give birth to ideas for effective media reform. As part of recommendations in Chap. 10, I make a case for non-governmental public reformism. This concept can be further developed in future academic literature.