News of the World should serve as cautionary example

The News of the World, Britain’s best-selling Sunday tabloid according to the Guardian, printed its final copy July 10 after reports of corruption, bad business and illegal activity forever smeared the paper with a reputation for unethical and criminal reporting.

In 2006, reporters from the self-professed “world’s greatest paper” were convicted of hacking into hundreds of cell phones to glean tips from “people of interest,” according to the Associated Foreign Press. However, the acts recently made headlines when it was discovered that reporters had hacked and deleted voicemails from the cell phone of a 13-year-old girl who disappeared in 2002.

In response, News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch yanked the 168-year-old paper from publication with an apology statement and a cover issuing “a sad but very proud farewell to our 7.5 million loyal readers.” Amidst all the lies of the scandal, one can only hope other media outlets will take away one simple truth from the tabloid’s tanking – if News of the World can’t get away with it, neither should anyone else.

Repercussions from the actions of a handful of individuals nearly five years ago are being felt across Britain, hopefully signaling a turning point in ethical standards for media outlets across the globe.

Upwards of 200 writers and other employees of the publication are now jobless, according to Business Week – forever branded with the company’s scarlet letter. Former News of the World editor and chief executive of Murdoch’s British newspaper corporation News International Rebecca Brooks was arrested Sunday, Britain’s top police officer Paul Stephenson has resigned and Prime Minister David Cameron has faced questions about his friendships with the publication’s editors.

Though the tabloid is now the prime example of poor ethics – ensnaring more of Britain’s top officials in the scandal’s web – it is not the only media outlet that has turned away from its journalistic duty in pursuit of excess and shock value.

Coverage of the Casey Anthony trial will forever be associated with TV host and legal commentator Nancy Grace’s interpretations of the “Tot Mom’s” guilt in the murder of her daughter. Murdoch’s Fox News is universally associated with Republican bias, just as MSNBC is linked to a Democratic bias.

These organizations may not be hacking into cell phones, but they are still convoluting the lines between fact and opinion, right and wrong, in an attempt to shock and awe audiences. Pair these loose interpretations of news with a generally disinterested audience and journalists could see dire consequences from their desperate attempts to keep readers’ attentions.

Perhaps papers will now turn to truthful, ethical reporting as a way to shock readers. Perhaps now the public will learn to be more discerning of what they read and mankind will once again remember the importance of ethical behavior.

Just in case we need a reminder, commemorative issues of the News of the World’s last issue can be purchased for 2.95 pounds on the paper’s website.