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Paper Monitor

11:06 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When celebrities divorce, there is an almost inevitable tit-for-tat war of words from carefully briefed “friends”.

But the armageddon over the breaking of the Mills-McCartney bond is in another league entirely.

So what’s a media organisation to do when a lurid court document from the Mills camp comes whirling off the fax machine? For on Tuesday afternoon, this is just what happened in the Press Association’s office.

The folk at this august institution declined to publish the previously unknown allegations, given that the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act 1926 rules out covering celebrity divorces in excruciating detail. No such qualms at the Daily Mail, which received the same documents some three hours later.

In the Guardian, a media lawyer writes that it is not the allegations of wife-beating and drug-taking that will make the legal profession choke on their collective cornflakes. Instead it is the “unexpected return of Edwardian-style reporting of divorce cases”.

Prior to the above-mentioned act, the popular press covered such sensational claims as it was necessary to establish cruelty or adultery to get a divorce. But the powers-that-be decided this was injurious to public morals, and so banned all but the most concise statement of “evidence” in contested cases.

Thus is the Guardian’s excuse for piling in - to detail the legal and ethical dilemmas involved in covering the story.

Again, no such qualms at Mail today. Or the Daily Telegraph, which also goes big on the allegations. This could be seen as perverse, concerned as both are with the state of the public’s morals. But who are we to judge?

(In an unrelated aside, a big shout out to the nice folks at the Telegraph, who cover the upcoming publication of the BBC's pronunciation guide, as revealed on Monday by our How to Say guru.)

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