Last Wednesday I wrote about the news restriction in China. During my entire research I thought: “Thank god we don’t have to deal with that kind of stuff. News restriction is not possible in our western world.” But then I came across the “News of the World” scandal, that, how a BBC article from august states, led to “wider questions about press regulation, media ownership, the police, and relationships between politicians and journalists.”
The scandal arises
As some of you may have seen on the news, the British Sunday Newspaper “News of the World” (NoW) has admitted in April, that they have been illegally hacking into the voicemail messages of celebrities to fish for exclusive stories. The police have a list of about 4000 targets. They are very various: celebrities, sport stars, politicians and even victims of crime.
Some short facts: News of the World is a newspaper, from the American multinational media conglomerate „News Corporation“. The company´s chairman and CEO is Rupert Murdoch.
The BBC reports in a timeline that the hacking started around 2000, when Rebekah Brooks became a NoW editor. Until the downfall in July 2011 several editors and journalists used phone hacking to snatch a good story.
When selling copies is more important than a missing girl
The most shocking hunt for a good story happened in 2002. Some NoW reporters managed to hack into the phone of the missing 13 year old Amanda Dowler. They had access to her voicemail while she was reported missing. But instead of reporting this information to the police, they deleted some of her mailbox messages, so they could hear new incoming voicemails. The horrible thing is that they deleted also some key evidence that would have convicted Amanda´s kidnapper and murderer. (He got caught later though, and got a lifetime in jail, but still…) But not only that, they gave the her family false hope, since there was some activity on the girl´s phone the investigators and the family thought Amanda was still alive. What kind of people keep such crucial information from the police just to have an exclusive story? Shockingly Amanda Dowler wasn’t the only crime victim being bugged.
“The Guardian” and Nick Davies broke the scandal
In Early 2009 Nick Davies, a veteran “The Guardian” (TG) reporter, came to Alan Rusbridger (TG editor), to inform him he´d discovered that James Murdoch, the son and heir of the second most powerful private news-media company on earth, had done a secret deal to pay more than $1 million to cover up evidence of criminal behavior within the company, writes Rusbridger. Indeed some reporters and Editors were arrested, because of phone hacking before the scandal broke, but actually it was Davies who blew the lid off the phone-hacking scandal that drew enough bad publicity to eventually shutter the 168-year-old paper, comment Karlee Weinmann and Patricia Laya in the “Business Insider”. In 2010, before the crucial evidences came to light, Davies gave a very interesting Interview to the Journalist Robert Powell, that clarified, the importance and scope of the story he was onto. Take look:
“News of the World” dealt a huge blow to modern Media and News reports
Though many reporters, a private investigators, even some police officials and editors, e.g. Rebekah Brooks have resigned and some even got arrested, the scope of that scandal is enormous. Questions have been raised about the behavior and the journalistic methods of journalists of several other Newspapers like Daily and Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and People. Suspicions are various. But the scandal also prompts wider questions about press regulation and ethics, media ownership, the police, and relationships between politicians and journalists. As Davies has declared in the interview the power of such a huge News conglomerate is not to underestimate, since its grasp can reach into“heart of political power”.
Though the outrage of this affair is plausible, is a serious suggestion of news regulation adequate?