168 YEARS NEWS OF THE WORLD SHUT DOWN: UPDATE ON THE BRITISH TABLOID CLOSURE

News of the World to Close
A typically restrained News of the World cover
A while back, we looked at the legality of tabloid journalism, of paying for sources, of running with stories based on “insider’s say” and “sources confirm.” We learned that a lot of the genre exists in a kind of ethical and legal gray area. For example, publishing stories based on classified documents isn’t necessarily illegal, while leaking those documents often is.
What that boils down to is fairly simple: don’t steal information.
Apparently, nobody told News of the World.
The infamous weekly tabloid will publish its final issue this weekend. The reason? Instead of reporting on scandal, News of the World has found themselves in the center of one.
The 168-year-old gossip rag first came under fire for hacking into cell phones owned by royal aides, politicians and celebrities. They admitted to doing so. But in the past weeks, further allegations of hacking have grown increasingly disturbing. The purported targets have been missing schoolchildren and families of deceased soldiers and terrorist victims.
News Corp. — the international conglomerate that owns Fox and the Wall Street Journal, among innumerable other media outlets — announced the closure on Thursday. The paper had a circulation of 2.6 million, making it the largest English-language paper in the world.

But getting back to the legality of hacking: at the time of post, it was not certain what charges might be filed against News Corp. or the journalists who hacked into the phones of private citizens. What we do know is that police told a former editor he would be arrested on Friday. The Guardian also reported that a senior journalist would also be arrested in the coming days.
“Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad,” said James Murdoch, head of News Corp.’s European division. “It was inhuman and has no place in our company.”
Murdoch’s statement was terse and apologetic. But his intimation that a few bad apples were to blame was not shared by John Prescott, a former British deputy prime minister.
“This isn’t one rogue newspaper,” he said. “There are many more and the inquiry [into these hacking charges] has got to flush them out.”
If Prescott is right, British tabloids are going to have a lot of explaining to do. It’s a laudable thing, chasing a story. Even publishing information that sources don’t want in the public eye has significant merit. Americans need only remember the Watergate investigation and the publication of the Pentagon Papers as examples. But that information was provided by sources, sources who located and noticed wrong-doing, who felt a moral and ethical obligation to leak it to reporters who in turn felt a moral and ethical responsibility to tell the story.
But stealing information and invading someone’s privacy are just that: theft and invasion. In our increasingly interconnected, increasingly public world, we need investigations like these to hold onto the slivers of privacy we still have left.

Daily Dose of Everything

free counters

Daily Dose of Everything