Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Welcome to orange answerphone, the person you’ve called is not available, please hack into all their personal messages after the tone….

Further to my last post I feel I should comment on the hacking scandal in the context of ruthlessness. I didn’t intend for this to be a current affairs blog, but this story has brought the whole journalism profession under scrutiny and I feel it would be ignorant to overlook it.

Without getting bogged down in the definition of ruthlessness (which was rightfully challenged in the last post) I think the hacking saga presents a prime example of when a thirst to succeed to the detriment of others becomes standard journalistic practice.

And it works. Of course it works. If you hack people’s phones, naturally you’ll hear the story first, even before your protagonist knows the scoop themselves. News of the World was the most popular newspaper in the UK before it closed this month.

It doesn’t work forever though. I’m certainly no expert on this; I have yet to study media law. But without any knowledge of the plethora of illegalities of hacking someone’s phone, it doesn’t take a genius to know that newspapers rely on trust. People buy a newspaper once because there’s a scandal on the front page. They buy it again because they have trust in that paper. That trust evaporates if the reader feels that their phone could be hacked, that – in the wrong circumstances – the scandal could turn round on them.

Rebekah Brooks will have to answer for this. She has to choose whether she condoned hacking and was involved in malpractice for nearly a decade; or whether she was oblivious to a practice which was rife throughout a paper she was responsible for.

The news today that whistleblower and former NOTW journalist, Sean Hoare, has been found dead is incredibly sad. It is not known yet whether his death is linked to the hacking scandal, but I sincerely hope that it’s not. If any good can come of this scandal, I hope that journalists see the importance of integrity and transparency. Hacking is not investigative journalism.

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