Richard Desmond proprietor of Express Newspapers lost his libel case against author and journalist Tom Bower today. The result was not the most fascinating aspect of the trial, it was hardly an open and shut case. What was more interesting was the outpouring of opinion on-line within minutes of the outcome.
The jury at the London’s high court returned a majority verdict rejecting Desmond’s claim against the allegation, made by Bower in his book about publisher and tycoon Conrad Black, that Desmond had been “ground into the dust” by Black when forced into apologising for articles in the Sunday Express in 2002. Desmond believed the allegation damaged his business reputation. However this is a reputation that is far from unsullied, in fact the Guardian’s Janine Gibson opined “It may not be possible to defame him…..”
One of the first to comment was journalist George Dearsley who tweeted “People like Desmond have helped to kill responsible journalism and made many journalists’ lives a total misery”. “How do you libel a porn baron exactly?” added Leeds based PR about town Debbie Hastie. The comments came thick and fast sharing dsatisfaction, joy and amusement at the result.
The comments may not have the grace and consideration of a national newspaper leader but they are quicker and a welcome adjuct to free speech …and they do a pretty good job of telling it like it is.