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The editor of the Daily Mirror told the Leveson Inquiry he believes there is a “willingness” for online news providers to sign up to a regulatory framework.
Richard Wallace, who has edited the paper since 2004, said that “legitimate” online news providers would want to join a new regulatory body because “it gives them a lot of cachet”.
He said that “responsible” online news sources would be more successful. “The out and out cowboys, I don’t see in the long term they can survive,” he said, adding that “people want information that is competent and true.”
Asked about press tycoon Richard Desmond’s view that having current editors serve on the Press Complaints Commission creates rivalry, Wallace said that serving editors should play only an “advisory role” in a new body. He suggested former editors and ex-lawyers should serve, enabling the new body to call editors to account.
Discussing the relationship between the press and the political sphere in the UK, Wallace said that he did not believe the media were too close to politicians, but said News International had “particular influence”.
“The reason Rupert Murdoch has so much power is because we choose to give it to him,” he said, arguing that “politicians should have shown a lot more backbone”.
“They’re there to look after the welfare of the people, not the welfare of a media organisation,” he said.
He was also quizzed over the Mirror’s inaccurate stories about Chris Jefferies, the former teacher wrongly arrested in late 2010 on suspicion of murdering his tenant Joanna Yeates. Wallace told the Inquiry that off-the-record briefings from Avon & Somerset police, who said they were “confident” that Jefferies was “the right man”, “coloured” his judgement.
He called the episode a “black mark” on his editing record and expressed “sincere regret” to Jefferies and his friends and family. “Jefferies’ name will for ever more be printed on my mind,” he said.
The Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 for contempt of court over its coverage of the former teacher.
Meanwhile, on phone hacking, Wallace said he did not believe the practice had occurred, but added it “might well have been” hidden from him.
He added that he had never heard the Paul McCartney voicemail message to Heather Mills that former Mirror editor Piers Morgan told the Inquiry he himself had listened to.
Discussing the departure of his predecessor, Wallace said Morgan was dismissed over the publication of a series of hoax Iraqi prisoner abuse pictures. “It was a catastrophic error of judgement and he paid the price,” Wallace said.
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