It would be easy for Americans to dismiss England’s phone-tapping scandal as entirely foreign and not a domestic concern. After all, the scandal began with a most-British story, a 2005 scoop on Prince William’s semi-secret treatment for an injury in 2005.
But the case is a black eye and a cautionary tale for journalism as a whole. While the scandal focuses on illegal practices at the now-shuttered News of the World newspaper, which never graced these shores, that paper was part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. And that empire most certainly has an American base, including Fox and The Wall Street Journal.
The scandal in England was the result of competition run amok and lax ethics. Police were bribed. Politicians were pressured to look the other way. The phones tapped included the family of a murdered schoolgirl, Iraq war widows and celebrities. Rumors persist that the phones of 9/11 victim families may also have been listened in on.
In 1998, a similar case on a much smaller scale rocked the Cincinnati Enquirer’s investigation of Chiquita. And while in that case a single reporter was deemed at fault, it points out that scandal can happen here as well.
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