Phone Hacking Acceptable in the Name of Journalism?

5 Dec

Former News of The World journalist Paul McMullen told a British parliamentary committee that eavesdropping on phones is “perfectly acceptable” as a journalistic method. His exact words were “Phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we make, if all we are trying to do is get to the truth.” In defense of the journalists who eavesdropped on Milly Dowler’s voice mail messages, he commented that “our intentions were honorable.” McMullen pointed out that the police’s incompetence in the reason why journalists should take matters into their own hands.

The issue of the phone hacking scandal has been beaten to death to the ground by every newspaper/magazine/social network/bathroom stall doodles – basically any platform that conveys news I can think of. This is the very story that brought the Murdoch empire to slowly crumble before the world’s eyes. The phone hacking gave the family false hope in the girl’s survival as well as interfering with the investigation.

It is interesting that anyone would think to defend what the journalists did because they had “honorable intentions.” This actually brings up an interesting question on how far journalists should go to pursue a story. Does invading privacy cross the line? Yes it does. This is the point when journalistic endeavor crosses over to paparazzi. Whether the intentions were good or not, the means were definitely unacceptable in this case, period. As journalists we need to adhere to an ethical set of rules. Without it, there is no “honor” in reporting truth.


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