Belfast Telegraph

Foundations crumbled, but will 2014 see them rebuilt?

By Paul Connolly

It's typical – and probably inadvisable – at this time of year to reflect on the lessons of the previous 12 months and give some predictions for next year. So, here goes nothing.

The big lesson in 2013 for newspapers and other media was, of course, the further humbling of the profession, thanks to the hair-raising tales of skulduggery and criminality allegedly uncovered at certain Fleet Street tabloids.

A long list of journalists and others have been charged with a range of alleged crimes and 2014 will certainly witness the culmination of a succession of investigations and trials. Not that the world's second-oldest profession is alone in the dock. At times, it seems almost all the key pillars of the state have been built on foundations of sand.

Only last week, MP Denis MacShane was jailed after admitting false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for "research and translation" services. Sentencing, Mr Justice Sweeney said the former Europe minister had shown "a flagrant breach of trust" in "our priceless democratic system".

The BBC has also had a truly Annus Horribilis. Sex scandals heaped upon money woes, piled upon accountability controversies have left serious scars.

Thanks to newspaper revelations (yes, the fourth estate still has teeth), the US and UK's security services are in the doghouse over privacy and spying.

The churches, in particular the Catholic Church in Ireland, have been in the doghouse for years. Thankfully, Pope Francis was a breath of fresh air and long may his reformist zeal continue.

Just when you thought bankers couldn't stoop any lower, along comes the Co-op's 'Reverend' Paul Flowers and his foul-mouthed, drug-drenched lifestyle. Even ethical bankers, it seems, can be unethical. Incidentally, one of my predictions for coming years is that the next sector to face a reckoning is the health service. It has been too opaque and unaccountable for far too long.

Other predictions? Well, as always, that's a tough one, but I'll thrown my lot in with Tablets, Standards and Wearable Tech.

The relentless rise of iPad-like devices will continue. And 2014, or maybe 2015, should reveal whether there is a market for newspaper tablet editions. (Ditto with the subscription/paywall debate.) Hopefully, there will be, because proper journalism is an expensive business.

I mention Standards because all the signs so far suggest Ipso, the new independent Press regulator, will be a tough and vigorous watchdog that will drive up standards. If it doesn't do its job, the Press has only itself to blame for what follows.

As for Wearable Tech, this year, or the first half of 2015 at the latest, could well be the one in which Google Glass, smart-watches and other body devices start to go mainstream. This will bring with it another explosion of video – and also a raft of privacy and other legal concerns.

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As the holiday season draws to an end, it would be remiss of me not to record for posterity my favourite correction of 2013.

It appeared in The Sun in June, with the headline 'Aliens: An Apology'.

"In an article on Saturday headlined 'Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ', we stated 'two flat silver discs' were seen 'above the Church of Scientology HQ'.

"Following a letter from lawyers for the church, we apologise to any alien life forms for linking them to Scientologists."

 

@BelTelReadersEd

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