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Op-Ed: Anne Diamond testifies to the Leveson Inquiry

By Alexander Baron     Nov 28, 2011 in Politics
London - The former breakfast television presenter Anne Diamond testified to the Inquiry today, and some of what she had to say was not easy on the ear.
As first a print journalist then a TV presenter followed by a victim of tabloid excesses, Anne Diamond said she'd experienced both sides of the media.
She was catapulted to fame in 1983 when she was involved in the relaunch of breakfast TV, which had spectacularly flopped, but second time around it was a success, and now breakfast television news is well established in Britain, although people who take their news seriously tend to prefer the BBC's offering, Breakfast.
She had a lot to say at the Inquiry, most of it unpleasant. Those who want to digest it in depth are referred to the Leveson Inquiry website which contains all the videos and documents.
She related an early encounter with Rupert Murdoch in person, and believes this led to intrusive reporting into and about her personal life.
In 1980, she had been involved in a road traffic accident in which a man was killed; seven years later, this appeared on the front page of the Sun under the headline "Anne Diamond killed my father". The paper had tracked down the family of the man who had died in the incident and used this quote - which may have been invented - from his son. She reported this to the Press Council - as it then was - because she felt it has made her appear like a murderer. The retraction was published at the bottom of page 23!
After this, she related two particularly nasty anecdotes relating to her first pregnancy, including a reporter posing as a doctor while she was in hospital.
For the birth of her second child, she decided to go to Australia - where Rupert Murdoch comes from! She ended up being photographed 9 months pregnant in her own garden by a telephoto lens from a neighbour's upstairs window.
In 1991, her baby son died, and within an hour, she and her husband were besieged by the media. This tragedy was a cot death, and it led to her campaigning to raise funds for research into the syndrome, which was overwhelmingly successful. It was this campaign, incidentally, that transferred her in the public mind from a slightly daffy unmarried mother (as she once was) and airhead TV presenter into something far more worthwhile.
Earlier this year, she was made a patron of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.
It remains to be seen how much credit for this campaign is due to the Sun. Before her baby son's funeral she wrote personally to every Fleet Street editor begging them to stay away, recalling the media frenzy that had surrounded the death of Eric Clapton's son Conor - which led him to write the song Tears In Heaven. The paper sent along a photographer with a very long telephoto lens, then asked their permission to use the resulting photograph. When he husband said no, he was told they were goiing to use it anyway, which they did, on the front page.
This high profile tragedy resulted in enormous public interest, and she and her husband found themselves virtually blackmailed into going along with a Sun-initiated campaign to raise money for cot death research, and this had led in turn to her being accused of "collaborating" with the paper all along.
She said also that her family and friends had found journalists foraging in their rubbish bins. Gutter press indeed.
Earlier, he Inquiry heard from Chris Jefferies and the singer Charlotte Church. It continues tomorrow with more witness testimony, which will hopefully not be as unpleasant as was today's.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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