Byline: WILLIAM ; MIKE KELLY
THE public perception of a journalist is probably best summed up by how they are portrayed in books, on TV and in movies.
While very occasionally they are seen as truth seekers fighting against all odds to hold those in power to account for illegal or nefarious acts - All The President's Men about the Watergate scandal in the US being one - more often than not they are seen as rumpled, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, untrustworthy rogues who think ethics is a county near London.
As ever, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.
But with the ongoing phone hacking scandal spreading like an ugly stain across the profession, you won't get many people leaping to defend it at the moment.
One person who does is Bob Satchwell. As executive director of the Society of Editors, his comments are perhaps a timely reminder for those who seek to rubbish all journalists on the basis of the phone hacking allegations.
Continued He said: "The public could be forgiven for thinking every journalist goes doing this sort of thing. I don't believe that is the case at all. "It's fair to say the reputation of journalists has always been pretty low, but they have to put up with that some times. They are doing a dirty job and some times when you're looking for rats you have to go down in the sewers." The stories published as a result of the illegal phone hacking - when access was gained to messages on a target's mobile phone - appeared until recently to be just glorified celebrity and royal gossip. While wounding and infuriating to the victims, the public at large didn't appear to be overly outraged. Things changed this week. First it was revealed The News of the World illegally targeted Milly Dowler and her family, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance. Detectives from Scotland Yard's new inquiry into the phone hacking, Operation Weeting, are believed to have found evidence of the targeting of the Dowlers in a collection of 11,000 pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for phone hacking on behalf of the News of the World. Later it was revealed officers have already told the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the girls killed in Soham in 2002 by Ian Huntley, that their mobiles had also been hacked. Documents seized by the Metropolitan police in a 2006 raid on Mulcaire's home show he targeted Leslie Chapman, the father of Jessica Chapman. Suddenly journalism found itself under intense scrutiny and some came to the conclusion that what happened was standard media practice. Mr Satchwell, a regional and national newspaper journalist since 1970, who spent three years at the News of the World, said: "I know of no instances where there has ever even been a topic of conversation within a regional newspaper about someone being involved in this sort of thing." Meanwhile, MPs have been as quick to praise the work of regional newspapers as they have been to condemn The News of the World. Labour's Shadow Solicitor General Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle From19 Local newspapers play a very different role and have direct links to their communities. INQUIRY Shadow Solicitor GeneralNorth, said: "Whilst the continuing revelations about the phone hacking scandal are increasingly shocking and distressing, we must remember that this by no means should result in all journalists and newspapers, including the Journal and Chronicle, being tarred with the same brush. "A free, independent, scrutinising, but properly regulated, national and local press should play a central role in our democracy, which we must not put at risk as a result of these truly appalling allegations. …