prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Thank You & Goodbye

Posted by prof e on July 14, 2011

Last Sunday Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid News of the World was laid to rest after 168 years of operation. A scandal in which private individuals’ cell phones were hacked led to the public outrage that forced the closure. While politicians and celebrities, including Hugh Grant, have long complained of phone hacking by tabloid reporters, it was the hacking of the phones of  private citizens that brought strong criticism and investigations by law enforcement. Among those hacked: 13-year-old missing person Milly Dowler, relatives of victims of the London terrorist attacks and the families of fallen military.

Throughout history journalists have been rewarded for “scooping” the competition. The paper or news organization that got the story first was rewarded with the largest audience and the accolades of their peers. The challenge, of course, is knowing when to stop before aggressive journalism crosses the fine line that separates ethical from unethical practices. While this case appears to have focused attention on an unusually egregious lapse of ethics, the truth is that journalists push the envelope daily and often escape scrutiny. Sometimes the risk pays off in a big way. Other times it leads to someone getting fired–or an entire news operation being shuttered and hundreds of people loosing their jobs.


33 Responses to “Thank You & Goodbye”

  1. Greg Martin said

    I don’t ever read the tabloids but it is somewhat sad to see a pioneer in the game go down. It is wrong what happened but it seems the “World News” had ethical problems they need to take care of and make right. Hacking anyones phone is wrong, it is a violation of privacy. If someone wanted to talk to you or give you info. they would do that. World News clearly violated the the people. In contrast, the Mass Comm family have seen a once well respected tabloid closed its doors and shut off the printing presses for good.

  2. Becca Guillen said

    I rarely even pay attention to tabloids, let alone magazines but I don’t think celebrities phones should even be hacked. I think everyone has a right to their own privacy, even public figures, but hacking the phones of an ordinary citizens compromises a lot of things. The 13 year old that was missing definitely pushed it WAY farther than it should have ever gone. It can compromise a criminal investigation. I think that the fact that when they were violating the privacy of public figures it should have been stopped and they should have been properly disciplined, then maybe it would not have developed into what it did. I think that standards have been lowered in the publication world if they got away with hacking phones of public figures, I am personally glad they shut down; the only sad part about it is the people without jobs.

  3. Alex Hovet said

    Most people say they don’t read tabloids but think about when your in the grocery store check line. All the reading material around is either DIY or tabloid. They make a lot of money with these tabloids. My thought is if people can make money they are going to no matter what, legal or illegal: ethical or unethical. It’s a sad society we live in but we create it. If people didn’t buy tabloids and were not interested in the lives of the stars i don’t think any of this would have happened. The tabloid would not have existed and no harm would have been done. So this is a travesty but only our fellows citizens and us are to blame for what has happened here.

  4. Adam said

    I don’t believe this story only applies to tabloid journalsim, but journalism in general and freedom of speech and press as well. Journalists are subject to a code of ethics, similar to lawyers and doctors, that outlines moral implications that arise from the nature of their work. It gives guidelines as to what is right and wrong and just like the average citizen can chose to disobey a law, journalists can blow off “the code”. It happens more often than you’d think with the emergence of new technologies creating smaller and smaller audio/visual recording devices, and the advent of youtube where anyone’s voice can go “viral” almost anonymously, and further still how-to videos on hacking cell phones, computers, you name it. Journalists are continually pushing the envelope “leaking” bits of celeb gossip, personal lives, credit card reciepts, whatever you want to see they’ll lie cheat and steal to get it all for the right price. All this is almost completely legal under the constitutional rights afforded by the US constitution. Some journalists stretch and mold and bend privacy laws and using the first amendment as a shield defend their right to say what they want without fear of reprimand. This ties in with our class discussions about yellow journalism. Journalists have the ability to create news when there is none worth printing. The juicier the gossip, the harder the public falls for the story, and the bigger the check they recieve in the end.

  5. Adam said

    …not all journalists are necessarily evil though…

  6. Danita Wyatt said

    I think that this situation is absolutely absurd and it is disgusting and also scary the lengths that some people will go to get a story/money. When you really think about it, every story ever written in a magazine, newspaper, tabloid etc. was exchanged for money or some other kind of reward. Nothing is ever free. So, those who got the information were willing to risk the integrity and trust of themselves, the company and pretty much the entire world of printed media. After hearing about this story, there is no doubt in my mind that there is some other magazine/tabloid doing or that will do the same thing just to earn a buck. This situation reminds me of the discussion held in class about hip-hop music and the comment that was made that the lyrics are so explicit only to serve the public and to make money not so much to tell a story any longer. it seem that the entire world as a whole runs on the same standards, to get money however and to do whatever it takes. I also makes me ask the question, What is something that would be un-compromiseable to exploit, if anything, for someone to say no amount of money is worth risking this?

  7. Whitney Johnson said

    I think that this situation is very ridiculous and strange. People from any source of the news are constantly try to get a story and they dont care about the lengths that they have to go through to get that story. They also have no regard for those that are involved in the certain situation that they are trying to get a story from. I think that its ok for the news to be informative because this is the way that people no whether they could potentially be in danger or not, but when it comes to a persons privacy there is a boundary that must be set. Granted there is the First Amendment which allows freedom of speech and the Press but there needs to be guidelines set (Rules and Regulations).

  8. This sitauation kind of deals with the hunter that wants to shoot down “big game” for recognition and respect. However in this case all aspects of what impact this story would have on future generations for print media, would hold. As we know print media is on the decline and is heading towards extinction. So to print a story of something moderately unethical to shut down a print media corporate giant is like sending a car down a hill with no brake pads. Print media just took another major fall and now it only seems like a matter of time until newspaper circulation is completely gone from society. I’m not saying that what this corporate giant did was okay, all I’m saying is that the effect of employees losing their jobs and possibly not being able to provide for their families is a much bigger concern, especially when the practices of the people who got a hold of this story are at times unethical themselves.

  9. Katy Carpio said

    It has nothing, really, to do with journalists being “evil” or not. The issue is that journalism, like many other things, is a business. They exist to make money for their stakeholders. This being said, there is a line of ethics in business, but it is routinely crossed in pursuit of profits. Phone hacking or taps have been done by government agencies for years, especially in light of our elevated concern regarding terrorists post-9/11. These taps are done to people at random, with the stated goal of protecting the populace. People who are concerned about the tabloid’s actions should be equally so about the government’s. Beyond this, the power of the network that has given us so much interconnectedness has also publicized our private lives. In the era of Facebook, the concept of privacy has less meaning, and people have less expectation of it. All together, this means that the tabloid should not be so viciously attacked for trying to make money, and people who willingly surrender their privacy (meaning, average users of social networks) should not be so quick to leap to its defense.

  10. Emily K. George said

    In response to what Katy Carpio said, as for people posting on social networks, that is information that they give freely. As for information they have stored on their phones, such as personal text messages or private phone calls, that is not information they are passing out to everybody. If it was information they wanted everyone to know about, the tabloids would not have had to go to the extent of hacking; they could have simply looked it up. In response to the article, people do still value what privacy they choose to have. Hacking a person’s phone is as invasive and wrong as that person breaking into their house and going through their personal possessions. It makes you feel violated. As i stated before, posts on social networks or blogs are information they are giving freely whereas information on their phone is a personal conversation between themselves and the other person. Meaning it was nobody elses business. While the idea of a tabloid hacking phones may not be entirely surprising, it is still considered unethical by a vast social majority. People still value their privacy regardless of the uprise in social networking sites.

  11. Adam said

    Allow me to retort as well. While journalism, in many forms, does exist to turn a profit, this is not the only business of journalism. The Society of Professional Journalism, while not necessarily the standard bearer, defines well the purest intentions of journalism.( “To ensure that the concept of self-government outlined by the U.S. Constitution remains a reality into future centuries, the American people must be well informed in order to make decisions regarding their lives, and their local and national communities.” The desire to turn profit is a by-product of human greed. Shouldn’t all public information be shared freely?, or maybe at the cost of what is required to feed the families of the journalists sharing the information? As previously stated, a person divulging personal information through a public medium is not necessarily indicative of “lowered expectations” of personal privacy. As well, the information of interest to this discussion wasn’t volunteered, it was pilfered from someone’s cellular telephone. Espionage and covert surveillance by journalists has a definite place in investigative jouralism but this instance crosses the line. With all due respect, to buy into the fact that the families of fallen military, victims of terrorist attacks, and a missing minor’s privacy being violated is simply “business” as usual, is almost as bad as the violation of privacy itself. Perhaps “evil” may not be the best word for anyone who attempts to profit from a tragedy victim’s personal information, accessed through illegal means. However, in the moment, a better term had escaped me.

  12. Dom Harris said

    Although I don’t pay attention to the tabloids much because I don’t feel they are reliable sources of news, it is quite alarming to see the extent some people go to get a story. How can they justify invading people’s privacy to simply get a story? But I feel like if it’s so easy for journalist and reporters to do it why do people assume the government has not been doing this for years to us. The U.S Constitution contains no express right to privacy. Therefore we have no privacy.

  13. louie lozano said

    Media is suppossedd to be news for the people. It is here to give us information from all around the world. But what purpose does it serve, when the people that media serves, dont even trust it; even worse they feel threatened by it. Thats when a problem arises. if we cant trust our own news source to protect us and fight for us, not against, then how are we suppossed to ever trust a government that is also suppossed to work for us. We cant. It was un ethical for “news of the world to hack private citizens phones. But even more than that, it was hurtful to society.

  14. Jordan Boehme-DeCew said

    Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking about when they invade another person’s privacy. They are breaking trust, breaking laws, and building up barriers. Rupert Murdoch did his dirty work by way of other journalists, however, he was the mastermind of the entire scheme. Surely he had to know that he was going to offend, get in trouble, and lose the trust and credibility for being a professional that he had gained over the last several years. It just generally amazes me how someone could be so.. what’s the word.. selfish? It does seem that way to me; collecting taboo and/or private information just to have good journalism? It is tacky, to say the least. A professional should never sink so low as to exploit people just to get people talking. In fact, regardless of his reasoning, he was totally guilty of poor journalism as well. Journalism and news is supposed to inform about the world, as Louie Lozano said. Celebrities and families in the military are not news. The news is about the charity that Paul McCartney put together to fund the construction of the Freedom Towers, and what efforts the military is utilizing to help foreign countries and get out of war. If anything, Murdoch should have been focusing in on the world, not on the individuals in it.

  15. jrmcclain said

    Ethical or unethical and how far is considered too far to go when intruding into the privacy of others. Reporting the facts or scooping a story — is it all done just to raise sales figures or is there a desire to report the truth to the public? The majority of true journalists have a passion for reporting the news and facts and figures in the most ethical and honest manner to the public. It is human nature to fall into the realm of greed within a successful business enterprise. The narrow road of ethics gets put to the side, and money rules everything including the guidelines of any successful journalist. Unfortunately, the greed of others overtakes the will of the honest employees and then everyone, including the general public and talented journalists are made to pay the price. Shame on Murdoch.

  16. K. Williams said

    I think this is a perfect example of questionable journalism gone way too far, and it is horrible that they hacked the phones of a child, terrorism victims, and families of the military. However, I think it’s sad that a whole paper had to shut down just because of the mistakes of a few journalist. Now there is a whole staff unemployed and, worse yet, this is one more tainted mark on the public’s perception of journalism both in America and in Britain.

  17. Alexandra Richardson said

    Media is corrupt in any form newspaper, tabloid, tv, etc. All the news wants to do is put fear in people and have everyone feeding on what they need to know about in order to stay safe. In almost every tabloid some bull is put in it and who even bought tabloids anyway…..LAME. As for journalists wow how many loop holes can someone find in our justice system like seriously media groups are so unethically enculturated it is sickening. Why is it people fear a certain side of town or are prejudice? Because the media enculturates anyone that associates themselves with it..thats why I think it is best to know good from bad media tabloids ranking at #1 most ridiculous and worthless.

  18. Courtney Tafoya said

    this is something new to me, it’s never really been brought to my attention til now. i think hacking people’s things or tapping into their personal things is completely wrong. what goes on behind close doos or in private is for that matter. its personal! if journalists wanted to be awarded for finding the most gossip or news then they should do it in a more appropriate way! not by sneaking around people’s back’s.

  19. taelor said

    i believe it is wrong to hack into someones phone. it is natural for people to want to be the best in what they do, but going to this extreme to get that award is wrong. in class we talk about the good and bads of media and society and this would be one of the downsides. i know i always like to keep up in the tabloids just because it is gossip but if you invade someones personal life and they did not want to give you the information it should not be posted in a magazine.

  20. Andrew DeBerry said

    Regardless of the situation it should be wrong to hack into peoples phones.Though i do understand thta in the media industry you must be agressive in order to survive, but is it right to invade in to other peoples lives to this degree? Its astonishing that other media companies are able to cross the line and avoid public intolerance. Sometime sit makes me ponder if perhaps almost all of the media is lies or overextended facts. In such a har dindustry you must try and grab your readers attention, however at times such a task comes with great risk. Its sad to see a company that wa sin operation for 168 years have to shut down, but its best for society as a whole.

  21. Justin Haddan said

    For a 168 year old news tabloid to go out of business for unethical activities is outrageous. First of all hacking or tapping in to peoples cell phones is a huge invasion of privacy and flat out wrong. You would think that after 168 years they would have it figured out by now but I guess not. The whole idea of scooping a story makes sense for a news company but not at the expense of your ethics. I don’t never read tabloids so I don’t really know how these things work.

  22. Quayshaun Coleman said

    Its truly discusting to see how far people will go for money. Are we as Americans entitiled to nothing anymore? Not even privacy? I agree that the tabloids metheds were completely unethical. Should the have shut for it, is a completely debatible topic. But, I think and hope that other tabloids and magazines can learn from the mistakes of others and make the change that this tabloid failed to.

  23. Ryne Neal said

    First of all I hardly ever read/pay attention to tabloids, I personally think that they are pointless. However, I find it ridiculous that a tabloid would hack anyone’s phone for the “Scoop” on a story. Although I find it hilarious that the law enforcers didn’t step in when celebrities were being hacked, but instead when normal everyday citizens were being hacked. Shows you just how much the law cares about “everyone.” I personally think, thought phone hacking the worst, that all methods that tabloids use to get the story is unethical. The newspapers usually do it right just by interviewing as many as they can. Instead how the tabloids do it, is in the sneakiest manor possible, getting all the “dirt” on someone that could possibly ruin their lives if posted. Though I guess that is what tabloids do best.

  24. CJ Gerber said

    I myself hate this kind of journalism. Leave celebrities and leave us alone. Only bring us the news we need to hear and that doesn’t take ruining someone’s life and privacy for a little story. Reporters go to far and its ridiculous.

  25. Dakota said

    Media is always corrupt. It doesnt matter what type of media it is, there is always going to be something being said that people arent going to agree with and there is always going to be something said that people with think is “dangerous.” People will always complain about the media no matter what the topic is. This is a problem because people will always criticize the media and think they are saying something that is considered unnecesarry.

  26. Missi Netzer said

    Investigative journalists take stories to a whole new level so the world can have access to truth. However it crosses personal boundries and can ruin peoples lives and more often than not its personal matters that they try and find. Hacking phones for a story is unethical and an invasion of someones privacy.

  27. Tyler Stone said

    I personally have never read the tabloids, but I have seen them at Wal Mart or other grocery stores beside the check out counter and I think some of the stories are ridiculous. However some people must think its interesting because they stay in business. Investigative journalists are not always such a bad thing but when it comes to tabloids there should be some kind of code of conduct in what you can or cannot do because someone thought that hacking into private phones was okay, so clearly something is not right there. As far as tabloid journalism a lot of the intrusiveness is included in the job so I think if you were to establish a solid code of conduct they wouldn’t be able to lie about small things that might be true which would bring the drama of America way down and possibly might even lead to having a more interesting and factual journalism then what we have today.

  28. Victoria Jimenez said

    It’s definitely interesting to see how a company that was around when Edgar Allen Poe’s works were being published in magazines ended after such a long time. Crossing over significant times in history to see how things went down is always something we can look back on in awe; New of the World was ultimately torn down by extreme exploitative use of technology in the 21st century and I could not imagine a more ironic situation in any other decade. There is a limit to which journalists can go and that applies to all decades of journalism and it is up to the journalist’s morals whether or not they will cross those lines that get them in trouble. Although tabloid scandals on celebrities is popular and exists internationally, it never truly makes it the moral thing to report on.

  29. Donovan Potratz-Oldham said

    This is kind of a ridiculous situation, and I do think that it is wrong and unethical, but at the same time I do understand it. If they get the inside information out sooner they will get all the credit. When it isn’t a 13 year old missing girl, or a family of fallen military members, but rather some inside information on say a controversial celebrity situation people love that stuff. Because it has been more publically acceptable in those situations these journalists, and reporters are going even deeper, testing boundaries almost. Either way in my opinion it is wrong, but I do understand why they do it.

  30. Ikechukwu Iheanaju said

    I get why reporters do that stuff, but I feel the dirt they’re going for shouldn’t be news to begin with. If they wanted to report on things that mattered then they would not have to push the envelope on what boundaries they’re crossing on a daily basis. I understand that a new story is important, but the ends don’t justify the means in this situation. Technology is at a point where tabloids should be just fine getting the scoop on social media without having to be hackers or creepers. Thats too invasive for news thats really just gossip mostly.

  31. Jonothan Stephenson said

    It makes sense to why reporters want to get the truth, its their job to sell the best hard hitting stories. However; the argument of when does it become too much, is hard to define. Reports can have the power to make or break someone’s livelihood. This is something that, we as society gave into. We always want to hear the truth even when the situations are bad. Can we really be mad at scenarios like this when we want hear or read the “juiciest” news? The reporters have to be wise enough to know when to stop. This problem is something, I feel like, journalists will be facing as long as media is around.

  32. Paige Buchanan-Hall said

    As a reader of tabloids from time to time I can understand how someone can get caught up in the life of a celebrity especially when it is apart of someone’s job. But at the same time no matter how much fortune and fame celebrities have they are humans just as the rest of us. Which makes you sit back and think how you would feel about someone invading your privacy and exposing your skeletons to the world. Technology has made hacking a celebrities a phone just a thumb swipe away, which is crossing that line.

  33. Katryna Pona said

    I think it is unacceptable for tabloid journalists to go over board and cross the line to the point where it can affect someone’s life, however I do understand that reporter want to get the truth and the best stories out to the public but I think they should think twice before exploiting something very personal and private in ones life’s to the whole world. I feel like they try to take advantage of this to get the “best” story out but in the end I don’t think its worth it to put someone on blast to the whole world just because it will benefit you for your job as a journalist.

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