The story has of course been dragging on for about four years now, but within the last few days things went nuclear. It was revealed by ‘The Guardian’ (who seem to have something of a vendetta against News Corp!) that the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler was hacked by ‘News of the World’ and that the contents of her voicemail was altered. This was followed yesterday and today with police investigations into the phone hacking of several victims of very emotional crime – including the parents of the Soham school girls Jessica Chapman & Holly Wells and the families of 7/7 victims.
My view is very much the same as the rest of the country, appalled. Invading the privacy of grieving families is both shocking and disgusting at the same time. Throw in the fact that the whole thing is just to make a quick buck and the story becomes even more sickening.
Throughout my training as a Broadcast Journalist, I have been told on several occasions that you will have to make moral decisions as a journalist. To an extent this is true, you won’t always get the big exclusives without stepping on a few people to get there. But this is in my opinion too far. I don’t understand how these people can live with themselves, taking people at their weakest point and exploiting them for financial gain is completely unacceptable.
But the sad truth is that ‘News of the World’ are not the only newspaper doing things like this, they’re just the ones who got caught. Fleet street is bound to be full of this kind of practice to get stories and sell papers from the Tabloids to the broadsheets.
In my opinion, journos who take it this far give journalism the bad name it often has and do not truly represent the hard working journalists out there who turn in stories in an honest and balanced fashion (believe it or not there are some out there, at least I like to think there are). Perhaps this is why I’m more a fan of broadcast journalism where competition for advertisers is not nearly as important.
But despite my initial reaction being the horror at these actions finally revealed, my mind quickly changes to the interest angle, because this is a remarkably interesting story.
Rupert Murdoch, like it or not, has controlled a lot about how this country has run for a very long time. His media saturation is such that any political party fall head-over-heels to impress him – he wins elections and dictates who stays in power.
But now, Murdoch isn’t fully in control. One of his prize money-makers has fallen from grace. The negative of being such a massive empire? It’s Murdoch and News Corp that get mentioned in every report, just as much if not more than News of The World.
This could have a big impact for Murdoch, not least with News Corp’s upcoming takeover bid for BSkyB. With so much negativity around and irresponsible journalism, Ofocm could step in and block it, halting years of planning from Murdoch.
Then there’s Rebekah Brooks, the editor of NotW during the hacks, now Chief Executive of News International. She’s embedded herself firmly within the Government and is running Murdoch’s ship for him pretty well. But she had to know about these hacks and if she didn’t, this surely proves she is an irresponsible leader. She surely has to go over this issue. Harsh words perhaps, but if the boot was on the other foot, Brooks’ papers would be calling for it.
Yet Murdoch defends her. He’s put his reputation on the line today by taking her side of the argument, putting Prime Minister David Cameron in a very difficult situation. Cameron has to win the views of the public and the easiest way to do that is to condemn these actions and the people in charge of it. But at the same time, Cameron doesn’t want to break his close ties with Murdoch’s empire.
But one man seemingly doesn’t care about staying on News Corp’s good side. Enter Ed Miliband – remember him? Leader of the Labour party… He’s a man in danger of losing the faith of his party and today he fought for that faith, challenging the PM strongly on the situation, asking him the questions he didn’t want to answer. But in doing so, he’s taken a big risk.
Miliband came out, guns blazing against Murdoch and his empire. For the present, that’s great – he’ll no doubt win supporters. But there’s still a long way to the next election. Murdoch has a massive empire, this scandal will be brushed off like a fly and in four years time when Miliband is campaigning, he won’t forget. This is why Murdoch is so powerful, he can control what goes in his papers/TV/films/websites and he can shape the way a nation thinks.
There’s a reason why all governments get in bed with Murdoch and while Miliband looks like a hero now, he could live to regret this in a few years time.
But what happens next, who knows (not even Murdoch). The police are currently investigating several hacking allegations and sources within News Corp seem to think the worst is still to come. There’s no doubt that this scandal will hurt ‘News of the World’ and the newspaper industry as a whole, but how much and how far this goes is yet to be seen.
Horrible yet oh so interesting at the same time.