Claire Beale: Where Guardian leads, more must now follow
A view from Claire Beale

Claire Beale: Where Guardian leads, more must now follow

Aren't you fed up of reading about phone-hacking at News International? Me neither. There is no other story this week.

Every day brings new headlines that you just couldn't make up. Today (Wednesday), the Commons has united against Rupert Murdoch, The Wall Street Journal says he's thought about selling News International, the US senator Jay Rockefeller has called for an investigation into whether any American citizens were targeted by the hackers...

and now, half an hour after I began writing this column, my cursor's back up here in the second paragraph again to add: Murdoch has withdrawn his bid for BSkyB.

It's a tremendously exciting drama: about the media, brought to a head by the media, that is changing the shape of the media forever. Ironically, although this is essentially a tale about the corruption of journalism, it's also a story of journalistic triumph. The Guardian (not my favourite newspaper) has been sensational.

I've bought the paper every day for the past week and spent hours devouring it. And though I'm hooked into the minute-by-minute updates on Guardian.co.uk, the printed paper has an absolute and compelling role in the unfolding of this story; you simply can't luxuriate in all its coverage digitally. It's a case study for old and new media dovetailing perfectly: online for instant updates, each quickly replacing the last; offline for the full, finely crafted picture.

And where the Parliamentary and judicial systems have been found wanting over the whole farrago, it's been left to The Guardian, consumers and advertisers (in that order) to drive it on to the national agenda. Some of those groups may yet regret the full consequences of what they've set in motion but, for now, the moral victory is enough.

I doubt, though, whether we'd be here at all if it wasn't for The Scott Trust's remit to protect the journalistic and financial independence of The Guardian. Would a paper with a more strident commercial imperative have been so diligent and dogged?

Yes, sales of The Guardian newspaper and traffic to its website will rise temporarily, thanks to its superb coverage of the story. But will the paper ever recoup the cost of the resource devoted to such thorough and relentless reporting? Unlikely. Fortunately, it doesn't have to.

In a world where content is so often expected to be a free commodity and consumers are increasingly prepared to trade quality for cheapness, maintaining standards and professionalism is an intense challenge for every commercial media owner. Now, post-News of the World, and working in a new, cleaned-up regulatory framework with greater scrutiny, media owners will find it even harder, yet more vital than ever, to meet that challenge.

Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign