09
Jul
09

Do you care how journalists get their stories ?

screwsIn Britain, the House of Commons – and the Metropolitan Police – have launched an investigation into  claims that “News of the World”  journalists used phone hacking to get stories.

The Guardian claims up to 3000 high profile people were targetted from Elle Macpherson to the former deputy PM John Prescott.

Here’s the Guardian’s “live blog” on the story.

Now, no-one’s advocating breaking the law – if any law has been broken, but it does raise the question of whether you care how you get to read or hear a story, just the story itself.

The expenses scandal in this country was a story broken and owned by the Daily Telegraph and domintaed the news agenda for some time. I’m not suggesting for a second that anything illegal happened to obtain the story but everyone – including the MPs themselves – agree it was in the “public interest” and i’ve seen next to no chatter about the ethics of getting the story.

But if it’s a story you don’t like – or disagree with – are you more likely to criticise or question how it was obtained. ?

And with new media battling to get stories on first, is there more pressure to cut corners to get a story out there ?

Again, no impugning here, but celebrity website TMZ  legitimately broke the Michael Jackson story and got a world exclusive. Does anybody care how they got it ?

If money changes hands, or something is passed on , or someone blows the whistle, is it legitimate if the end result is good ?


82 Responses to “Do you care how journalists get their stories ?”


  1. 1 Hilary Atkins
    July 9, 2009 at 13:50

    This is not new news. Everyone should read Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. He has already documented the methods that the media use in order to get so-called news, including ‘blagging’. If you read this book you will question much of what you read and hear in mainstream media. And we all should. While huge profits remain the ‘raison d’etre’ for many newspapers, readers looking for sensational and sexy stories are also to blame. Readers can change the agenda by refusing to buy newspapers such as the News of the World and demonstrating that they care about the ethics of news gathering.

  2. 2 Bob in Queensland
    July 9, 2009 at 14:38

    When money changes hands in the pursuit of a story it introduces an element of pressure to “sex up” the facts. This puts accuracy and impartiality in question.

    As for the story that prompted this question, this was research for a story–it was a fishing expedition. I think an interesting side note on the ethics in play in this sector of the media is the lack of mention of this story in other outlets owned by the same company.

  3. 3 Ramesh, India
    July 9, 2009 at 14:42

    I don’t care how journalists get their stories as long as they don’t care the risks involved in. For example, What the hell a Wall Street Journal reporter has to do in North Korea other than spying?

    • 4 John in Germany
      July 10, 2009 at 13:43

      Dear Ramesh.
      How can you compare a Journalist with a Spy. Every single Western Spy Operating in North Korea is doing some good for Democracy. Any Journalist even if after news, will be accused of being a Spy if caught-i don’t have to tell you why.

      Some countries just do not want the truth told. Countries that have nothing to hide in the way of Democracy, are not worried about Journalists, why should they be.

      We know what sells a lot of our News Papers, A bit of gore, a bit of sex, Pictures of half dead Children, and crying mothers. I am amazed at the amount of viewers that look at the TV shows where all sorts of people have all sorts of accidents. Many must Die, but there are enough of these crazy for gore people,so the stuff sells Advertising space.

      The Budget of some of the Legal Sections of some of our News papers must be horrific.

      i am just going to read our free advertising newspaper. Lovely ,no gore, no sex, just chunks of local news, as it happens with no embellishments. its free of course, paid for by the ads, so it is really free.

      Have a nice what ever it might be
      John in Germany

  4. 5 Peter_scliu
    July 9, 2009 at 15:25

    Reporting a fact may not be reporting the truth if you are not honest with your intention. Journalist should have a self regulating body to give credence to their profession.

  5. 6 Jessica in NYC
    July 9, 2009 at 15:46

    This is a great idea for a show! So, you’re asking two questions: 1) Are you more impartial to how a story is obtained if you disagree with it’s politics? And, 2) If money changes hands, or something is passed on , or someone blows the whistle, is it legitimate if the end result is good ?

    In answer to the latter question, I believe the Washington Post said it cost them a million dollars to break the Water Gate scandal that brought President Nixon down. While not all stories will bring a country or it’s president to it’s knees. It seems to me that quid pro quo has always been a standard in journalism and in business for that matter. Isn’t “cultivating” relationships a cornerstone of all our job responsibilities?

    To your former question, breaking a story is no excuse for breaking the law. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a story, if I found out my trusted news source was obtaining information through illegal means, I would not trust it to be partial, much less tell me the “truth”. TMZ seemly had inside contacts that no doubt were paid, but that is not illegal. If the hospital has rules against violating a person’s privacy, then proper action should be taken against it’s employees.

  6. 7 ARTHUR NJUGUNA
    July 9, 2009 at 15:47

    There is no easy answer. Sometimes I don’t care because at times a journalist has to use unorthodox means to get a credible story and therefore the means justifies the end. However, there ought to be caution because media is a lucrative industry that is often abused by the moneyed and the powerful. Sometimes what you read as news might be nothing more than a sponsored article by an individual or a group with a hidden agenda or sometimes to turnish the image of this or that throug manipulation of public opinion.

    It is obvious that one must trained to be a journalist. What this does not talk about is that, a news reader also needs training even if it is self training – a means to analyze the news to find out if its worthiness and authenticity.

    Despite all the flaws news is important though we all hope it comes ‘naturally’.

  7. 8 Anthony
    July 9, 2009 at 16:28

    I don’t care because it’s all garbage anyways. And the journalists don’t care about how they get it when they get $100,000 or more for an inside scoop.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  8. 9 Tony from Singapura
    July 9, 2009 at 16:34

    If the newspapers can gain access to such personal data then others can also. The newspapers get the data because they can, I dont blame them. The mechanism that allows inappropriate access to information was not implemented by the media.

    There must be corrupt practices and negligence at the source of the informatioin, i.e. telphone service providers , Banks, internet service providers etc.

    Clearly these organizations are not sufficiently protecting our private information.

    It seems to me that we need to beef up legislation, penalties and enforcement of laws that protect our private information.

  9. July 9, 2009 at 16:34

    Journalist race to get stories that can catch the attention of a large section of the audience. That’s what their job is about as without unearthing interesting and sometimes sensual facts, the news they report will become boring just from the headlines.

    Journalists should use whatever source to get the information of interest to the public. Their job is to show what others – governments, companies etc- try to hide.

    However, the information got by journalists shouldn’t be used as blackmail. There are journalists who blackmail the concerned parties for money, not to publish facts about them as there are others who get money to publish facts however incredible they might be.

    In short, a journalist should publish the truth and nothing but the truth. The organisation for which s/he works shouldn’t be used as a tool to time events according to an unscrupulous agenda. And for that any source is acceptable as long it doesn’t breach the law or infringe on the privacy of the individuals.

    • 11 Ramesh, India
      July 9, 2009 at 17:54

      Abdel
      There is a TV news channel in my city that is allegedly have grown out of blackmailing high profile people on their illicit activities. All journos are not ethical, especially those working for tabloids. We have seen clearly in UK how tabloids have brought down the quality of journalism. In the whole Europe, people from UK are more crazy about gossip on celebrity figures. Similar trends are emerging in India too.

      • July 9, 2009 at 19:32

        Ramesh,
        Let’s not forget the case of journalists who can’t publish shocking news in censored counties as they can be faced with imprisonment. Of course that’s another topic.

        Freedom of the press should have ethical guidelines that should inform and not just stir emotions for the largest sale.

  10. July 9, 2009 at 16:39

    Oh no, I don’t care much how they get their stories, I usually don’t believe what I read in the papers until after a day or two; I’d believe the news then if no law suit follows.
    I think it is not important the means they use to get their news so long as they have enough evidence to wriggle themselves out should the subject of the news chose to sue for damages. Maybe we need someone to compile a rating of media organizations based on the volume of their news which has been proven to be false.
    But just before you dump that paper as being forged news, ask yourself “what if what the claim here to be news turn out to be true?”

  11. 14 Suleiman Mbatiah
    July 9, 2009 at 16:42

    I am a journalist working in Kenya for a major media house.

    At times getting stories calls for other ‘crude’ methods to acquire the facts that juices up the pieces for an exclusive.

    I have found myself many a times disguising myself to get get news.

    Some women journalists have been edged to ‘entertaining’ sources to get news that most of the time sail through.

    It doesn’t matter what you do or how you get it but what matters is the material you get and the importance it has to your audience.

    thanks.

  12. 15 Justin from Iowa
    July 9, 2009 at 16:42

    If its within the laws, Then I have no problem with newspapers doing whatever they do to get a story. There is such a thing as harrassment, if their information seeking is taken too far. And, if newspapers violate laws in the search of stories, they must be punished. If those newspapers attempt to shield their people from prosecution for broken laws, those newspapers must be shut down until they give up their law breakers.

  13. 16 patti in cape coral
    July 9, 2009 at 16:46

    I agree with Abdelilah,but of course this is how things should be ideally. Aren’t journalists already subject to the same laws as the rest of us?

  14. 17 Gary Paudler
    July 9, 2009 at 16:48

    No, I don’t care how real journalists get real stories. The law cares and as long as we consent to laws – and we do, even if only tacitly – then journalists must be subject to the law as well. But sometimes laws are obstructive and I believe that functional democracy demands defiance at the right moments; not to poach lurid pics of celebrities but definitely when politicians abuse situational claims of privacy to hide incompetence or malfeasance.

    Gary
    Summerland, California

  15. 18 Tom K in Mpls
    July 9, 2009 at 16:50

    I think the bigger issue is the what and why in the choosing of a story. Commercial news services are eternally suspect due to this. Another aspect of this I find a bit annoying is that this show makes it a policy to follow their lead by always focusing on the most talked about stories.

    Back to the topic, there are the issues of law and respect. If laws are broken I hope the reporter won’t cry ‘freedom of speech’. Face up to it and let the judge give proper punishment. As for respect, we have the ‘paparazzi’. They commonly go way too far. Yes I know it is a two way game for many celebrities, but this still shows my point quite well.

  16. 19 Mukul, Parsippany NJ
    July 9, 2009 at 16:56

    If it is a news story that deals with something that affects my life then I don’t care how journalist got that information.

  17. 20 kate (formerly kate in morocco)
    July 9, 2009 at 17:07

    I believe that investigative journalism, to blow the cover on things like corruption, health hazards, government practices, corporate practices, etc. are important and I do not particularly care how stories are obtained as long as the information is correct and it is presented in a way where either the bias is clear from the beginning or that is as unbiased as possible. That being said, journalists and their parent companies should be willing to face consequences if they break a law.

    I do not endorse crazy methodologies or controversial ones that deal with celebrities for “gossip.” Seriously… if someone needs to tap a phone to uncover exploitative practices, POLITICAL scandal, or something that impacts citizen’s lives, fine. But if it’s to uncover the latest baby pics of some Hollywood star, uncovering affairs, or lurid sex photographs, that’s unethical and unnecessary.

  18. 21 Rob (UK)
    July 9, 2009 at 17:16

    Yes, I do care how they get their news. As a scientist I would not cite research that appeared to be be unethical, no matter how important its findings.

  19. 22 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    July 9, 2009 at 17:18

    It is the aeons old dilemma of:

    Do the means justify the end(s)
    OR
    Does the end justify the means?

    The topic is worthy of a thesis for not one but a few PhD theses!

    From A point of view:

    The alleged phone hacking would be incorrect (regardless of whether it is illegal or not) depending on the nature of the information sought.

    If the information sought is of a gossipy or salacious nature just to sell more tabloids then it is incorrect and even more so if it was illegal (as phone-tapping without a Court order would be)!

    The exposure of the MP’s Expenses scandal is a good case in point, in that, it pits the method of information availability (deliberate leakage which appears to be accidental) versus the greater public or social good. From this point of view the journalist(s) who obtained that information did a good job!

    So as I said at the beginning of this comment … It is the aeons old….

  20. 23 Nigel
    July 9, 2009 at 17:20

    Just like sport it is really all about money which immediately brings questions about integrity, spin and accuracy in to question. Don’t buy all this hooey about “journalist doing their job”. Do buy “journalist trying to sell a story or picture” however.

  21. 24 Ann
    July 9, 2009 at 17:27

    I think in circumstances where a serious crime or abuse of political power may be suspected, then there is a moral case to be made for the invasion of an individual’s privacy. But I suspect there are already laws to enable this?

    However, invading people’s privacy to feed the public’s taste for gossip and scandal is reprehensible and journalists should rightly be held accountable before the law.

  22. 25 rob z.
    July 9, 2009 at 17:28

    The news people should what ever legal means necessary to get at the truth of the story.
    When it comes to entertainers,I personally don’t care to know who is addicted to what,or who is devorcing who.
    When it comes to politicians and the things they try to hide,or lie to the public about.
    The public should know the truth about who is making deals whith who,and if those deals are in the intrest of the people and not just for personal gain.
    I do have to say,that in the USA,the big news organizations tend to polarize the public;instead of giving just the facts.The only exception being PBS.
    Should I care how journalists get the story?
    AS long as the journalist does not commit murder,GO GET THEM!
    Let the courts decide.

  23. 26 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    July 9, 2009 at 17:30

    With reference to my ‘just submitted’ comment-

    As a postscript I’d like to say that: the discussion on this topic should also include the speed with which news / stories / comments to blogs are published! 8)

    If certain comments are withheld or delayed and others are published in a jiffy then shouldn’t journalistic ethics and morality behind such actions, or lack thereof, be examined too?!?!

  24. July 9, 2009 at 17:30

    I think that the only time that the end would justify the means would be in total war i.e. Armed conflict. There has to be some integrity somewhere. A lot of you do not seem to care where or how journalists get their information. I would suggest however, that if it was your telephone, computer or lifesttyle that was being sifted it would certainly be a different story. I read news for various reasons, and I hope I am intelligent enough not to believe everything I read. Lies are usually exposed for what they are, as in Iraqs WMD’s. Telephone tapping is a universe away from whistleblowers.

  25. 28 Julia in Portland Oregon
    July 9, 2009 at 17:39

    Integrity Integrity Integrity

    It all comes back to integrity…..you have to look at the source of any comment, story or criticism.

    If you can’t trust the source – you can’t trust the story.

  26. 29 Elias
    July 9, 2009 at 17:40

    Its the job of journalists to get their stories which is in the public’s interest, however it must be obtained within the bounds of legality.

  27. 30 Ramesh, India
    July 9, 2009 at 17:41

    A perfect debate on Rear Window movie, it seems! And can we recall what happened to scientist David Kelly because the BBC journalist falied to maintain secrecy about him? Bourne Ultimatum clearly illustrates how stupid can some journalists would be. I would not expose something through a journalist hoping that you would keep my identity secret.

  28. 31 Abram
    July 9, 2009 at 17:43

    Aren’t we sleep-walking into a surveillance society? Politicians, officers and other high profile people abuse surveillance of the population. Journalists have always been the first targets, now it’s politicians and co. who are targeted. I don’t know if it’s OK, but citizens’ trust has already been violated even during the trial phase surveillance technologies, and I believe, it’s only a matter of time before someone uses secret data for their personal or political advantage.

    *
    -4.2m CCTV cameras
    -300 CCTV appearances a day
    -Reg plate recognition cameras
    -Shop RFID tags
    -Mobile phone triangulation
    -Store loyalty cards
    -Credit card transactions
    -London Oyster cards
    -Satellites
    -Electoral roll
    -NHS patient records
    -Personal video recorders
    -Phone-tapping
    -Hidden cameras/bugs
    -Worker call monitoring
    -Worker clocking-in
    -Mobile phone cameras
    -Internet cookies
    -Keystroke programmes

    • 32 Tom K in Mpls
      July 9, 2009 at 18:13

      Abram, I say no. People are quite aware. Also nothing is all good or bad. We need to monitor the use of this technology by individuals and our governments. All of this does a lot to make our lives better. But because we all make mistakes, there will be abuses by individuals and governments. We need to stay on top of these issues. We can not afford to pretend it is all good or bad and ignore it.

  29. 33 ecotopian
    July 9, 2009 at 17:43

    “The expenses scandal in this country was a story broken and owned by the Daily Telegraph and domintaed the news agenda for some time. I’m not suggesting for a second that anything illegal happened to obtain the story…”

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that there were nefarious deeds done to obtain that story. Politicians, being the crafty lot they are, might have been able to deflect the allegations by pointing out how they were obtained. The story would have gotten traction, but might have been mired in the way it was broken.

    It is assumed that the public likes what is scandalous. If the means of reporting is seen as dishonest, it makes the news less, well, bad. If you have dirty deeds gotten in dirty ways, the public trying to separating the two are asking why one is worse than the other. The reporter could be seen as bad as the people and events they are reporting on.

  30. 34 Sofia
    July 9, 2009 at 17:44

    Government invade citizens privacy using all kinds of farcical rationale for justification. It is general knowledge that the publics never get the truth or the whole truth of the issues that are most important and most impacting. Why then are the government officials squealing when the shoe is on the other foot?

    Ppl want to hear the truth, though sometimes its hard to swallow or downright dark and dirty. History shows that a lot of lies are told to the public.

    Why should it be wrong to hack government officials’ phones and perfectly acceptable to hack the average citizen’s phone?

    Revenge is sweet!

    Jamaica

  31. 35 Andrew in Australia
    July 9, 2009 at 18:02

    As long as people have a salacious need and a pathological desire to devour such news then no one really has any moral authority to point the finger at those who gather such detritis for them as they thumb through the latest tabloid or glossy magazine. Demand feeds production after all. Other than for genuine public interest in the case of criminals or corruption it is simply a cheap way to sell news in any form.

  32. 36 T
    July 9, 2009 at 18:03

    It’s one thing to legitimately break a story. But in this hypercompetitive climate, how many actually do that? Does TMZ pay their sources for tips? Also, do we really need to know literally every single detail in Jackson’s life?

  33. July 9, 2009 at 18:04

    Journalists should believe in ethical standards of reporting. In short they should follow the laws implicitly. If they follow a strict code of conduct, they would be respected more. Unfortunately there are some journalists who get carried away by pecuniary advantages: they prefer to spice up their stories and are less economical with the truth. That gives journalism the bad name! Journalists should learn to respect the privacy of citizens and that of celebrities. The crazy way the paparazzi hounded Princess Diana and Dodi had tragic consequences. Journalists have privileged, exciting lives but along with the perks comes responsibilities. A cardinal principle which they should follow at all times is that “truth conquers all”. Readers love true human storieswith genuine hilarity and pathos. The more wit the journalist is able to inject the better.

  34. 38 Reverend Wallace Ryan
    July 9, 2009 at 18:06

    The News of the World is not the only party to blame in this row over the hacking scandal…it’s the British people who read papers of such low journalistic standards that are to blame for encouraging this illegal activity by their avarice for rumour, fiction and half-truths.

    The solution is actually quite simple…don’t read trash.

  35. 39 Mike in Seattle
    July 9, 2009 at 18:07

    If the information has a true public interest component, I don’t care. The Pentagon Papers are an example of this, as are the more recent Expenses scandal.

    Tapping the phones of 3000 “high profile” actors and tv/radio personalities is *not* in the public interest. These weren’t narrowly targeted tappings, this is a fishing expedition. These people have a right to privacy.

    At this point it ceases to be journalism and becomes stalking.

  36. July 9, 2009 at 18:08

    A very interesting question! As a journalist, I find these allegations disturbing. Journalism remains in crisis, but ethics must apply. The question editors must ask themselves in a similar situation is whether the information garnered through phone hacking serves a legitimate public interest or is a desperate and arguably cynical attempt to sell newspapers at a time ad revenue and circulation continues to decline. These allegations certainly, at the very least, remind journalists they have a responsibility to gather and report the news through an ethical manner.

  37. July 9, 2009 at 18:10

    There is legitmate cause for concern of how some journalists get some of these stories — but the key is having a variety of information, different sources. Not just mainsteam media, but also alternative media. It is not restricted by the conventional, “mainsteam” world of media.

  38. 42 steve
    July 9, 2009 at 18:12

    Sorry, but knowing what some actor eats, or who they are having sex with, is not something that the public should have an interest. Honestly, who cares? I don’t care at all about the lives of celebrities and think they get way too much media coverage as it is. It’s amazing, when I go grocery shopping, they have all the tabloids at the checkout register, I just wonder what the average IQ of the readers of these publications is. It just contains the most shallow, uninteresting, stupid things, such as “Brittney’s new look” or someone gained some weight or has some cellulite. It appeals to the lowest common denominator of society.

  39. 43 Jonathan from PDX
    July 9, 2009 at 18:13

    Journalists cannot be exempt from the law in the name of the free press. If I would go to prison for hacking a mobile or someones e-mail, members of the press should be equally legal liable. The right to privacy means protection from prying by both the government and private individuals.

  40. 44 Johanna
    July 9, 2009 at 18:13

    Have we forgotten about Watergate? It is sometimes important for the sake of reality and legitimacy that journalists be able to access certain information. The United States would not be the same country it is today without it.

  41. 45 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    July 9, 2009 at 18:13

    Re: Abram, July 9, 2009 at 17:43
    “Aren’t we sleep-walking into a surveillance society?………………”

    Hi Abram!

    1984 was supposedly written by George Orwell. Is that true or were you the real writer of that fantastic book?!

  42. 46 Sijan/Nepal
    July 9, 2009 at 18:14

    Journalistics ethics do not allow to do this short of alleged things in Journalism field. There should be some short of privacy and one should respect ethics as well. Not only with public interest stories are being slanted to get the human interest scoops. If these things would continue then whole national security as well as rule of law would get hamper….so these things should be controlled…

  43. 47 Mark Sandell
    July 9, 2009 at 18:14

    Yes Ros,
    i certainly do care how Journalists get their stories.
    Some years ago,my husband was on the receiving end of the worst sort of journalism,when the editor of a local news paper was paid a huge amount of money by some of his business competitors to run a series of lies in his daily, which went on for weeks in order to ruin his reputation.
    Reading that daily i would have believed it if it were’nt for the fact that i had been married to my husband for almost two decades and was also in the know about his business.
    Many journalists in our part of the world are too lazy to research the authenticity of’ rumours’ before going to print.
    Its a pity that the media here and in some other parts of the world is polarised along party lines and will do anything illegal including blackmail,break ins,stealing and cheating to get stories.
    No wonder they are now on the list of people list trusted,(closely behind lawyers) around.

    Grace K-E
    ACCRA

  44. 48 Tom D Ford
    July 9, 2009 at 18:16

    Rupert Merdeox doesn’t run a free, honest, and fair news organization, he runs a blatant right wing propaganda group.

    False News.

    Sheesh.

  45. 49 Mark Sandell
    July 9, 2009 at 18:16

    Yes, we all should. Instead of actually working, many journalists are just lazy. They don’t check sources, many just take press releases as fact. And now, apparently endless mobile hacking is ok. And they wonder why newspapers are going out of business.

    Tom

  46. 50 ecotopian
    July 9, 2009 at 18:16

    Imagine if Woodard and Bernstein had broken Watergate using a phone hack/tap. Oh the irony.

  47. 51 Julia in Portland Oregon
    July 9, 2009 at 18:16

    Maybe I should clarify my statement about integrity..

    I mean to say that integrity has to come from all involved, the government, the journalists, the citizens.

    If the government is not acting with integrity, it is critical for journalists to push the envelope and go for the integral story to get at the truth, this might include breaking the laws if the laws are written by a government that aims to suppress the truth.

    If the journalist is not acting with integrity, it is critical that the citizens act responsibly and not financially support such behaviour.

    I’m sure I’m unrealistic in my hope for this, I know that we will never be in a world that has government, journalists and citizens all behaving with integrity….but one can only hope.

  48. 52 Bruno
    July 9, 2009 at 18:17

    Of course I care.
    the New of the World seem to have an amazing degree of impunity here and to be covered by the police somehow.
    This is bordering on crime. I don’t call that at all “journalism”

    If people accept that some journalists could go on spying on their telephone line just to get “good stories” this is a sorry and very worrying sign for our democraties..

  49. 53 Natalie
    July 9, 2009 at 18:24

    I think the question for the journalists is: How would they like it if their trangressions, finances, children and other personal information was hacked into, lied about and published? Journalists are just as much public figures as goverment employees and celebrities. If you don’t want it to happen to you, then you shouldn’t do it.

  50. 54 Shay Gordon
    July 9, 2009 at 18:26

    Why is phone-tapping being debated? It is morally reprehensible and an unconscionable invasion of privacy, whether undertaken by an individual, a journalist or a government, or government-sanctioned, body. We have to become less complacent about our individual rights and begin debating the erosion of personal freedom.

  51. 55 Bill Braun
    July 9, 2009 at 18:30

    Your titillating lead-in hints at a cavalier attitude toward a civil society. Pursuing a justification in which the ends justify the means places a group of people above the norms of a civil society. If it’s OK for journalists, why not for everyone else?

    Asking if it is OK for journalists to use underhanded means to uncover a horrible injustice completely overlooks whether the same information can be discovered through other, ethical means.

    Bill Braun
    Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA

  52. 56 Mark Sandell
    July 9, 2009 at 18:36

    Frederick in Boston

    I think the role of journalism in the democratic process is changing from political watchdog to one of feeding our general appetite for sensationalism. Our voyeuristic inclinations have given a license to certain journalists to undermine the ethics and integrity of journalism.

  53. 57 Aphorism153
    July 9, 2009 at 18:37

    Sometimes I think WHYS screens for stupid. Of course journalists should not be allowed to tap phones! Sheesh.

  54. 58 George Griener
    July 9, 2009 at 18:38

    The moderator asks whether I care how news services get their news for “your information and entertainment”? That is the problem. News services cross the boundaries when they assume that news is about “entertainment” instead of “information”. Blurring the line between “information” and “entertainment” is the heart of the problem.

  55. 59 Stephen in Portland/Oregon
    July 9, 2009 at 18:38

    I do care how they get there stories, And the gutter press will just get worse as circulation of newspapers goes down and there profits suffer, there tactics will get more and more ruthless.

    They pander to the type of morons that buy anything to do with Mr. Murdoch Empire on both sides of the pond.

  56. 60 Julia in Portland Oregon
    July 9, 2009 at 18:39

    @Bill Braun – you’ve given me food for thought…….but I just have to ask do you think that in an oppressed society that it is always possible to get the story via ‘ethical’ means or does it bode that there might be some variance on the definition of ethical?

  57. 61 Leon
    July 9, 2009 at 18:44

    Whether Murdoch’s prime tabloid should do this is a different question from whether the media should ever do this. It’s Murdoch. Murdoch’s very powerful. Think about it. As we twist about trying to answer this question, Murdoch’s laughing. Leon, Central London

  58. 62 Chrissy in Portland
    July 9, 2009 at 18:46

    As a private citizen, is it legal for me to tap someone’s phone lines? The media should be held to the same standards and laws everyday citizens are held to. What about integrity? What about a journalist’s reputation? It seems like so many journalist these days are willing to sell their souls for “the story.” There is a difference between tabloid reporting and real journalism.

    How can the US media be considered unbiased and ethical when their news programs are sponsored by big corporate advertisers? Why is Boeing advertising on CNN?

    I’m not interested in gossip. I’m interested in factual news.

  59. 63 Erik
    July 9, 2009 at 18:49

    All you need to do is ask the question one would ask a misbehaving schoolchild. How would these journalists feel if their work was exposed by the same methods? The answer is obvious.

    Erik in Indianapolis

  60. 64 Andrew in U.S.
    July 9, 2009 at 18:49

    North Carolina, U.S. – Reciprocity is the basis of most law and relationships. How would journalists feel if a consortium of celebrities and politicians hired people to hack journalists’ and editors’ email, phone voice mail, credit card records, etc.? Salacious details about who’s buying naughty items or who is sleeping w/someone’s spouse could be leaked to competitors, and I’m sure millions of people would be interested in reading or hearing about them. It might be possible to trace confidential sources this way. If it is right for journalists to use these tactics, it must be right for others as well. Is this really the world we want to live in?

  61. 65 Jens
    July 9, 2009 at 18:49

    Dear all,

    That this should even be debated – rather than prosecuted – is a scandal. I’m a trained journalist, but have long left the dishonest and desperate profession that Journalism has become. Why even listen to people like ‘blogger’ Moly-poly? they add nothing to society or the profession. They are driven by nothing but greed and a yearning for prominence. Disgusting!

    Jens, Berlin

  62. 66 George Griener/San Francisco
    July 9, 2009 at 18:53

    It might help to distinguish between “ethical” and “legal”. Not all legal means are ethical–look at the practices in the financial world which were “legal” but hardly “ethical”, and not all ethical means are legal in particular societies. The issues overlap at points, but are not identical.

  63. 67 Alan, CA
    July 9, 2009 at 18:59

    Okay, journalists report the news to the public. It’s their job. If a few laws have to be bent or broken so that we can know the truth about our government, then so be it, as long as the information affects the public, and not the number or readers or viewers.

    I’m sure governments hide all kinds of things from the public. But we, the people, have a right to know what is going on, as it’s our tax money that pays their wages.

    I suggest that only important, relevant information received through ‘illegal ways’ should be acceptable, and gossip should be considered unacceptable.

  64. July 9, 2009 at 19:28

    Hi WHYSers!
    Before answering today’s question, I must say I was very appalled when I heard the story on the BBC today in reference to how the ‘News of the World’ had gotten information by hacking the private phone messages of celebrities as well as the former Deputy British PM. It would be extremely important to know how journalists get their stories, especially given the fact that we, sometimes, unquestionly assume that the information heard is true and, therefore, objective. We have had seveal debates in the past about this and I still maintain that media realities are, in many ways, fictional in terms of what is focussed on, how and the duration of time given certain stories. This new information about the ‘News of the World’s journalistic practises only serves to show just how deliberate most of what we see, hear and read sometimes is, or can be.

  65. 69 Mathew, Alberta
    July 9, 2009 at 19:39

    The media doing anything for a “good” story is something that always bothers me. There are many stories that are exaggerated just to stir up controversy just to get better ratings. Money clouds the fact that the journalists are there to report and not to give opinions or create trouble. This is the biggest reason that I choose the BBC for news on my satellite radio, as opposed to the more commercial American networks such as CNN and Fox, who are always being biased to one side or the other to increase ratings and their entertainment factor.

  66. 70 sulayman Dauda
    July 9, 2009 at 19:45

    Journalism is the heart of this world soul. once it bleed or had an abnormal functioning, then the world never see peace and what ever happens to our world good or bad, Journalism must be responsible for that. a journalist must be morally sond for the public to resfect and believe in hin or her.

  67. 71 patti in cape coral
    July 9, 2009 at 20:17

    I understand that there are some murky lines in journalism, but when they are crossed so much that the journalists are indistinguishable from their targets as far as their ethics or law breaking, there is a problem. Honestly though, until it was brought up, I didn’t think about how the news was come by. Maybe we need reporters to report on the reporters?

  68. 72 viola
    July 9, 2009 at 22:50

    We should care. Ethics is called for in every profession. Only lazy, unethical persons have a problem with that concept. As has been noted on this blog, moral and legal are not always the same. Ditto for ethical and legal. So what’s the difference between ethical and moral?

    Legal is usually easy, being more black or white or either/or, though determined people can even diddle the laws. Maybe this will help: ethical people won’t diddle the laws.

    Moral and ethical are more difficult concepts.

  69. 73 Deryck/Trinidad
    July 9, 2009 at 22:52

    Yes I do

  70. 74 bruised banana
    July 10, 2009 at 05:52

    It’s about cultural attitudes towards news values, particularly those that continue to make ‘News of the World’ a commercial entity. I don’t think it is as simple as liking a story or not.

    As traditional media is being reinvented this incident is a good argument in favour of news outlets that are government statutory bodies such as the BBC ect. because they are less prone to sensationalism, and tend to produce quality journalism relatively better than commercial enterprises.

    Of course this is a luxury were free media thrives.

    How information is gathered is crucial in determining the ethical weight of the story; has the journalist check bona fides of a source, omitted key details that would neutralise a story ? If we don’t care we deserve to be deceived !

    ‘Cheque book’ journalism or kick backs are demands that thrive in a commercial context, less likely to occur under a statutory body, as far as whistle blowing is concerned it is a virtue of a citizen/s to their society that should be void of money or favours.

    People pontificate the separation of the ‘Church and the State’, I advocate the separation of the Fouth Estate and commercialisation.

    PS I had to dig deep to find this story in the online edition of the ‘The Australian’ and I’m not surprised !

  71. 75 Halima Brewer
    July 10, 2009 at 07:08

    yes it matters. though I conceded it can be a fine line when the information sought is important enough for people to know what is going on – i.e the expenses scandal. I do not think this information was sought via phone tapping, but by demanding records of public expenses. That is OUR money being used for dubious purposes. But to troll through hundreds of random celebrities on the off chance that some tasty story will emerge is immoral as well as illegal.
    I am deeply dismayed by this and I hope News of the World gets severely punished. I despise paparrazi in general – I do not believe it is our right to know personal details of celebrities or to make their lives miserable for our salacious and sad appetites. Even if it is a good story, and the celebrity involved deserves it. Again, though, the question of genuine public interest can be, at times, a fine line Mass phone tapping is definably over that line.

  72. July 10, 2009 at 09:09

    Good luck to journalists and reporters wherever they are, whatever they are doing.
    The world is a closed shop. If you don’t know it, well try to infiltrate the city, society and special interest groups and societies. A journalist can only give the public an insight. Many work under impossible situation, with minimum help and facilities. The journalist is the victim in 99% of cases. A politician wants to make a name for himself like Berlusconi! The financial sector wants to score: Who better to approach than the editor. Then of course there is the publisher, and again media tycoons. Look what the media has done for us!

  73. July 10, 2009 at 09:51

    I do, and many as well do care. journalists must be ethical in their news coverage becouse it puts credibility concerns into how they present the truth.
    Kerich inm Kericho, Kenya

  74. July 10, 2009 at 10:00

    . i don’t care…..
    . that’s journalist must do to get hot news…

  75. July 10, 2009 at 12:11

    Dear Journalist friends,
    I am listening BBC World Services by Radio player,i have read of this article,with great interests.I also completed quick review of encouraging comments from different sections.
    From college days, i have been moving with news reporters,sub editors by larger ways.
    I know that ,sitting with any notable leaders on any chosen fields,interviewing,collecting,checking their true actions,covering direct, tough situations in any troubled spots are risky,and adventurous.
    If Journalists accepts some passes,some small gifts,some books,some free rides with them are accepted.
    But,if they take some currency notes,or for favor for their selfish wants are not healthy signs for anybody.
    I wish that, journalists will work on their self controls and live with high reputation.
    As an individual,I am for free for expressions and freedom for press and for journalists.
    Very good profession with full of thrills.

  76. 80 sriramuluk
    July 10, 2009 at 17:04

    It is not unusual for journalists to use underhand methods to get stories in public interest. But it is reprehensible to employ subterfuge to get a scoop with the intention of securing higher circulation or fame for himself or herself (journalist). I have not at all been shocked by the revelation because it is not unusual for newspapers owned by unscrupulous persons always do such ugly things. In India too, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, the southern State, there are some papers which resort to dirty tricks to engineer trouble for the persons who oppose the owners of the newspapers.

  77. July 10, 2009 at 20:01

    In Principle I do care. But i also realise that there are good reasons for exposing illegal scandalous acts. After all doing so is very much what the police should be doing. Finally thieves and the journalists are all breaking the law and and as such should be taken to court and tried. And now we can speculate: which of them would receive a heavier sentence. In fact we can bet that the jounalists have reasoned along those very same lines and have judged it was worth taking the risk and took it. The decisive factor being the profit to be gained and secondarily maybe service to democracy which in itself may be a major contribution thereto.
    If i was a journalist myself and confronted with taking or not taking a similar decision, i would dislike breaking the law but my conscience would probably tell me to go ahead and do my best to expose the scandal. So i say go ahead journalists clean the Augean Stables even if it means spending some time in some of Her Majesty’s guest houses.

  78. 82 T
    July 13, 2009 at 01:34

    What bothers me more is the global power a few corporations have over the global media. Assume that all of the News of the World allegations are true. Rupert Murdoch is the owner and is reponsible for their content. Will he be fined? Will he have to go to jail? One of the richest and most powerful people on the planet? No chance.

    Instead, this will be analyzed by the various MSM pundits. It will keep right on going. And people will keep buying the News of the World.


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