World Phone Hacking Scandal

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In March of 2002, Milly Dowler, a 13 year old student, was abducted and later murdered. From the time of the abduction until her body was found in September of that year, her family and friends had maintained hope through the fact that Milly’s voicemails were being deleted, giving them hope that Milly may have still been alive. However, in July of 2011, it was reported that it was in fact reporters from the Rupert Murdoch owned News of the World paper checking the phone messages and inadvertently deleting them. This was when the public became aware of an ongoing investigation into a scandal that had started years before. Every corporation faces ethical decisions on a daily basis, including the news media. While a news outlet may not have to worry about consumer safety or environmental factors as much as a factory or another type of company, unethical practices do occur. The way in which information is obtained is highly regarded ethical practice in the journalism world. Hacking into cellphones and voicemail boxes is not only considered wrong, it is illegal. Corporate intelligence is the collection and analysis of information on markets, technologies, customers, and competitors, as wells as on socioeconomic and external political trends (Ferrell, 2011). Ethical corporate intelligence can include companies using secret shoppers to price competitors, focus groups to learn what is popular among certain demographics, or obtaining information through public sources such as court records, libraries, or sanctioned interviews. Corporate intelligence can be used in an unethical way as shown by the News of the World. Private investigators hired by the company and journalists on payroll were actively eavesdropping and hacking voicemail passcodes to get the scoop on stories. The News of the World scandal originally came to light in 2005 when Buckingham Palace suspected that Prince William’s phone had been hacked when news of his knee surgery was released before the surgery actually occurred (Daily Mail, 2006). Later, in 2006, police were informed that Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired by News of the World, had intercepted private voicemails. In August of that year, Clive Goodman (editor of News of the World) and Glenn Mulcaire were both arrested. The CEO of News of the World, Andy Coulson, resigned saying he knew nothing and became a senior media advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron (Oliver, 2011). More phone hacking victims were found in the years between 2009 and 2010, along with documents showing that some victims were being paid off to not pursue legal action. It was not until the public learned that victims of the London July 7th terrorist attacks had had their voicemails hacked and the news of Milly Dowler that an uproar began. Amidst calls for the resignation CEO Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch had the News of the World close after 168 years of reporting (Oliver, 2011). There is an ethical standard that is held in the journalism profession. The New York Times Company has a guideline that is considered an industry standard in ethical practices of journalists. Two of the rules that can be directly applied to the News of the World scandal are: 27. Staff members and others on assignment for us must obey the law in the gathering of news. They may not break into buildings, homes, apartments or offices. They may not purloin data, documents or other property, including such electronic property as databases and e-mail or voice-mail messages. They may not tap telephones, invade computer files or otherwise eavesdrop electronically on news sources. In the case of government orders or court directives to disclose a confidential source, journalists will consult with the newsroom management and the legal department on the application of this paragraph (New York Times, 2005). 29. Staff members may not record private conversations without the prior consent of all parties to the conversations. In jurisdictions where recordings made...
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