The Hotel Torni in the middle of Helsinki is a wonderful place. From the bar at the top you can look out over the rooftops of this wonderful city and winter or summer, it is a beautiful sight.
There are only two dangers; one is the narrow staircase that leads from the lift up the final flight to the bar.
The other is that, having consumed enough alcohol to make you both attractive and clever, you will get into a heated discussion with a foreign correspondent.
I did it once with Daniel Frykholm, who at the time was Reuters’ top man there.
Despite the fact that he subsequently left the world’s biggest news agency, Daniel was (and I suspect still is) a Reuters man through and through, possessing just the right combination of intelligence, humility and curiosity that makes a great news reporter.
Odd then that he would argue in favour of tabloid newspapers, saying that, ever since the time of the “penny dreadfuls”, the general public has had a hunger for the most salacious stories, and would gladly set the truth aside just to read an incredible rumour.
It was, as a colleague of ours once remarked “not necessary for it to be true-only possible“.
I disagreed. For me, it is not the function of news journalism to entertain, and not everything a journalist comes across is news. In much the same way, just because the public would be interested doesn’t mean a story is in the public interest.
The fac that we as readers are unable to make that distinction is the driving force behind circulation slaves like Brooks, who has more or less sacrificed her career because of her desire to go further than anyone else in the business.
But paper never refused ink, and the truth is that millions of readers queued up every week to read about the sexual indiscretions of Premier League footballers and politicians. Banner headlines proclaimed the shortcomings of celebrities about whom the most shocking thing was usually their stunning lack of talent.
Simply put, if we didn’t read it, they wouldn’t write it, and in doing so they wouldn’t tempt journalists to root through people’s garbage or hack their phone messages.
We have a responsibility not just to be more selective about what we read, but to be critical of it, asking the obvious questions- why am I being told this? How did they find out? What are the sources? Has money changed hands? Entrapment? To paraphrase the Dublin expression, what is the story?
Reading is a skill, reading a newspaper is something that requires a more suspicious and enquiring mind, and it is only when we start to read more carefully and selectively that journalists will feel obliged to write in a similar fashion.
And if we decide not to, we should do what the despicable Rebekah Brooks has thus far failed to do and resign from the newspaper (reading) business.
And hope to hell that she quickly follows us.