RICHARD PEPPIATT, who quit the Daily star with a resignation letter published on the Guardian and gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, claims the pressure on journalists to deliver sensational disclosures incites an atrocity of fabricated news stories and plagiarism on a daily basis.
In his two years of working for the Daily Star, Peppiatt admittedly wrote a number of false stories about celebrities in exchange for bonus checks as well as increasingly racist propaganda per demand.
He says: “It was completely venial. It was so spun out of control that it didn’t even resemble the reality of what was occurring, and most of all, it was in relation to immigrants and ethnic minorities”.
Other assignments commissioned by the Daily Star includes Peppiatt dressing up in a burqa and dressing down to his tighty-whities on the street.
He says, “I felt a huge disconnect between who I felt I was in my private life and what I was doing in my day job which was completely opposite things.
“You can’t exist in that sort of tension”.
Peppiatt says he had been unhappy with some of the things he was being asked to do at the Daily Star for almost a year. He claims it often strayed away from having any of the characteristics of being journalism whatsoever.
“For a long, time I convinced myself that as a reporter, I was being paid to para their views and their prejudices and mine didn’t really come into.
“I was just a cog in the machine and it was part of my duty almost to be detached and just write what I was told to write,” says Peppiatt.
However, Peppiatt says he had been building up anger for some time and finally snapped when the Daily Star began to openly support the English Defence League and far right politics.
Peppiatt claims he made a decision to publish his resignation on the Guardian because he wished to cut all the bridges with the showbiz industry. He says there was a finality of doing it publicly and admitting many of his journalistic crimes in the process.
“If I was going to throw stones at the Daily Star, I had to destroy my glass house first,” he says.
Peppiatt says he felt it was important to make people realise what was going on behind the scenes because he felt it was getting worse.
The tabloids’ argument has always been that they give the public what they want. However, Peppiatt says the industry is so far out of control that we have evolved beyond just that.
Peppiatt claims he does not have a problem with people fabricating news and sensationalism. However, he has a problem when they put it on the market and call it journalism, because that is not what journalism is about.
He says, “journalism has to be held to a certain standard for it to be trusted.
“If people don’t believe the news that they are reading, then the very process of newsgathering is undermined and that’s really tragic and damaging to our democracy”.
Peppiatt claims that amongst all the spin, there are important stories that come out every day which genuinely hold people to account. He says there are great journalists in this country whose work isn’t acknowledged because it is mixed amongst a load of nonsense. He claims the refusal to separate the two is what prevents people from discerning what the truth is and what it is not.
During the Leveson Inquiry, Peppiatt apologised for not quitting his job at the Daily Star any sooner.
“I don’t like to apportion all the blame upon the Daily Star because as much as I know that I was being told to do things rather than being asked to do them, I had opportunities to say ‘No, and if you are going to fire me for not doing that, do it’” he says.
However, he admits that he was scared and that if he had two kids, a wife and a mortgage his decision to leave the Daily Star might not have been as easy. He claims he does not condemn journalists who work in the mainstream media because everyone has to make their own decisions about what they want from their lives and their career.
Peppiatt says there are increasingly more ways of doing journalism than going down the mainstream media root. He believes there are plenty of opportunities for people to forge their own path. He says he is much happier now and is finally able to do what he always wanted to do, which involves making films for the Guardian and doing stand-up comedy. He admits it wasn’t easy to begin with, but that he is slowly and surely getting to where he wants to be. When people tell him he has done brilliantly by quitting the Daily Star, he claims he politely disagrees.
“The brilliant person is the person who leaves after the first day,” he says.