Beyond Contempt, a book by Peter Jukes, ha been on my “To be read” list for a little while. I grew up heavily influenced by the journalism of The Guardian-in the sense that it was through the efforts of people such as Nick Davies that exposed phone hacking, and other activities. But, due to my age at the time, I didn’t really understand-and I’m only catching up now. Therefore, when this landed on my doormat, thanks to Big Green Bookshop, I was delighted.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the cover at first; it’s kind of like a magazine layout, but with the court/law imagery. I think that, on a bookshelf, it could be at risk of potentially being overlooked. (“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”-lesson learnt.)
The book itself:
This book left me with a case of what I quickly termed “journo jealousy.” From the outset, it’s peppered with phrases such as “My boss, Tina Brown…” People such as Nick Davies and James Doleman also make an appearance. These are some of my favourite journalists, and I have admired their work for a long time. From the beginning, I was turning the pages, agog at these details. From the outset, this book had to go with me everywhere-mostly on trains, for on my lunch break, etc.
This book is also more than just a court report; it’s the behind the scenes of the trial. It is also the journalistic side; it’s interesting to find that the press, who observed the trial, were given tickets.
I was also interested to see how far court reporting has changed since this particular trial. Along with this were the niggling worries-such as tweeting a trial, and worrying about possible contempt/prejudicing a trial. (There’s now a general permission to tweet.) And then having to watch from a screen from another room-and microphones being switched off, etc.
I also think that Jukes has a gift for endings, which reflects his dramatist background. There’s a sense of time passing in the book-such as when a building nearby the court is finished. That is what acts as a way to bring all of the information together.
But it’s also notable, in terms of how the ending of the book is left, what has changed; I would argue that Jukes is a journalist, contrary to the self deprecating note left in the acknowledgments, and a damn good one at that. He is also the CEO of Byline, a podcaster, and author.
This is perhaps one of the most absorbing books to do with journalism-although the link may be tenuous-that I have read; for the duration that I was reading it, I did not want to do anything else. I would read it on the train, then as I got home, as soon as everything had been dealt with, I would be reading.
I also liked how it wasn’t a book that assumes the background knowledge of the reader; the strategies of the trial are laid out in painstaking detail, with context to the claims woven throughout. It’s also not what Hack Attack by Nick Davies revealed, as to the hacking claims and the fallout; it’s the ‘what happened next’.
I also think that this book is relevant now, more so than ever before. Since it was written, a lot has happened-such as with the Leveson inquiry, the Untold podcast, the bid for the rest of Sky. For that reason, I think it is in need of an update.
I finished it by thinking that I would love to write the author’s biography. It’s the perfect book for a trainee journalist, or anyone who wants to know more about the trial, and its subsequent impact.
Note: I received this book for free, as part of Big Green Bookshop’s Buy A Stranger A Book Day on Twitter.