Arrested: four senior Sun hacks, plus an allegedly bent copper.
Is this the moment that damage to the Sun newspaper brand becomes systemic and unstoppable?
Not if News Corp, which ultimately owns the title, has calculated correctly. After all, the information that led to the arrests – carried out as part of the Operation Elveden investigation into police corruption – was volunteered by the company itself. The gesture is clearly designed to demonstrate that the House of Murdoch is now whiter than white, thanks to the ‘fearless’ probing of its so-called Management and Standards Committee (driving force, former Telegraph editor-in-chief Will Lewis, pictured).
Sacrificing the prospects of four more Sun employees superficially looks like a shrewd way of cauterizing existing brand damage. But on one condition only: that no more evidence of criminal behaviour comes to light. And who, in the circumstances, is going to guarantee that?
These four are not, after all, the first Sun staff to be arrested. Remember Sun district editor Jamie Pyatt, who was assisting police with their inquiries last November, and has now been bailed until next March? The suspicion must linger that more arrests – inextricably linking the Sun to the culture of criminal deception imbuing other parts of NI – are on the way. And how might that play with advertiser sentiment?
How long we will actually have to wait for perception to catch up reality is, of course, anyone’s guess. One of the remarkable aspects of this marathon phone-hacking (computer-hacking and police bribery) scandal is how long everyone at News Corp rival Trinity Mirror – from CEO Sly Bailey down to Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace and, indeed, The Mirror’s most famous alumnus Piers Morgan – has been able to cling to the increasingly threadbare ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ defence strategy. Only the other week, Bailey was telling the Leveson Inquiry that she had never launched an inquiry into potential journalistic abuses “because she had never been given any evidence of it”. Of course she hasn’t. Which turkey ever votes for Christmas?