I've been watching the unfolding events of the demise of The News of the World with great interest. And growing disbelief. I knew there would be denials as soon as the accusations of the cell-phone hacking came out, and we all knew the denials would be lame, at best, but I didn't realize they would make me feel as angry as they do. We've all seen those kind of denials before, from oil officials, from executives at Enron, we've heard them from as long ago from the legal teams of OJ and as recently as the Casey Anthony camp, but hearing them about the hacking of cellphones belonging to murder victims? Surviving family members of 9/11? This is a new low. A low matched only by the denial of KNOWLEDGE of them by executives at News of the World. Presidents paying bribes to cops? To officials? How could top execs NOT know?
Then watching old Rupert get pied in the face yesterday and being defended by his four decades younger wife who volley-ball SPIKED the offender in the face had to be to lowest of all. It removed the situation from the tragedy column to the tragi-comic division of journalism. And isn't the first rule of journalism this: DON'T BECOME PART OF THE STORY!
It reminds me of a story I read a while back about a Columbian jourmalist who hosted a popular crime show. Everyone marveled over his remarkable journalistic instinct at being able to ferret out these horribly gory crime scenes before the competition in order to film them for his true life crime show (Columbia having far less constraints over what is considered appropriate viewing material for the audience, go figure). He would arrive literally minutes after the crime had been committed, besting his competitors for the scoop of a lifetime. Internal Affairs investigation later revealed he was actually COMMITTING the murders, then filming them, so he would always be first on the scene. He would pay off the local police to be in on the scheme. When the news broke, this "journalist" became the story.
The News of the World story may not be exactly similar but the ookiness factor is the same. At some point, if only one news outlet is getting the amazing inside scoop time after time, someone has to start asking not the hard questions, just the reasonable ones. Someone has to say, "Who has his hand way in the wrong cookie jar?" After all, in order for evil to prevail, all it takes is for good men to do nothing. Somewhere, in the wreckage of The News of the World, a good man cowers, silent.
I'm just wondering what he's thinking now.