Hoisted by their own petard

How far should a newspaper reporter go to get information for a story? Should the reporter talk to relatives, neighbours, friends, work collegues, the average man on the street? Should the reporter seek the advice of experts and those who have been through similar experiences? Or should a reporter hack into the cell phone account of someone, be it a victim of a terrorist attack, a celebrity, a dead soldier, or a missing woman who later is found murdered, to listen to, and sometimes delete messages so that there is room for more messages?

The News of the World, a tabloid newspaper in the UK, better known for its scandal stories rather than reporting actual news, is in the middle of a huge storm at the moment as reporters have been found to have been doing all of the above in order to write pieces. In a profession whose motto could be ‘follow the money’, a quote from All the Presidents Men, a movie about the greatest newspaper reporting ever, it appears that the News of the World has ignored not only legal barriers but also moral ones too.

While teenager Milly Dowler was missing, the News of the World hacked into her cell phone mail box, listened to messages left by frantic relatives and friends and then deleted the messages so that more could be left, in order to listen to them also. The fact that messages were being listened to and then deleted gave home to those who were trying desperately to find Milly. Milly was later foud murdered.

To give you some perspective on the News of the World, or as nicknamed in the UK for the number of scandal pieces it writes, the Screws of the World, it is owned by News International, part of News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Also under the umbrella of News Corporation are:

Book publisher HarperCollings
Numerous other newspapers around the world including in the UK, the Sun and the Times, in the US, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal
20th Century Fox, the movie company
In the UK, Sky television, and in North America, Fox Sports, Fox news, Speed Channel, and many more around the world.

According to Wikipedia, News Corporation is the second largest media conglomerate in the world, with only Walt Disney ahead of it. To say that New Corporation has power would be an understatement. In essence, it has has the power to literally colour the news to it’s own perspective. Ever wondered why Fox News seems to offer a different opinion to other news stations?

In response to the News of the World scandal, Rupert Murdoch has announced that Sunday will the be last issue of the News of the World. Opinions are split to if this is a truly outraged response to a company under Murdoch’s hand that has gotten out of control or if this is a damage control effort, removing the focus of the scandal so that News International may take control of a media satellite company in the UK without opposition and that within a few months or years, a brand new newspaper will appear in the News of the Worlds place, with a new name, probably new staff, but the same style of publishing, albeit with a more cautious approach to information gathering.

Perhaps what people are getting from this scandal, a word that has been used many times by the nearly defunct News of the World, is that the further away from the owners of the company, the more astray one can wander.

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