Like many journalists, I’ve been following Max Mosley’s privacy case with enormous interest. Unlike many of my colleagues, I hoped he would win and I’m pleased he did. I say unlike, because I dislike kiss and tell stories and the often appalling pain and damage they leave in their wake. I’ve never worked as a tabloid reporter and don’t have the stomach for digging up salacious tittle-tattle. I must own up to being a hypocrite because I do read such stories when they are published, although I generally avoid buying celebrity-led magazines that print photos of some z-lister’s cellulite.
I firmly believe that people’s private bedroom activities should stay private, unless there is a genuine public interest. Only the most die-hard fans of Formula 1 had heard of Mosley before the News of the World decided to rip his life (and his wife’s) apart. There was never any public interest in exposing him like this, whatever the NotW claimed. When Mosley launched his writ there was a massive fear in the media that it would lead to a privacy law by the back door and prevent serious investigative journalism from being published.This has not quite happened as Justice Eady’s ruling has made it pretty clear where the lines are drawn. Exposés of financial wrongdoing, political corruption and public-sector cover-ups will all still be publishable. And rightly so.
The tabloids have been playing a dangerous game for years, pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable to print and not caring about the wreckage they leave behind after a story has become a chip wrapper. They’ve been warned often enough to get their houses in order. Perhaps, finally, Eady’s ruling will mean that private sexual activity among consenting adults can stay private. It’s simply not our business and never should have been.
Declaration of interest: I write for fetish magazine Skin Two.