Hacking is a media scandal, but no reason for a federal crackdown

News that the FBI is investigating allegations that 9/11 victims might have had their voicemails hacked by reporters sure seems like a fitting response to the cascade of revelations of wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct London tabloid, News of the World.

No doubt, it would be atrocious if newshounds had pawed at messages left for those who died abruptly that day, messages never heard by the people they were meant for. Or eavesdropped on the words of the terrified victims themselves during their last moments.

It’s such a cruel invasion the privacy that whoever’s responsible should be found and punished, it would seem.

But I’m uneasy. I don’t like to see detectives in newsrooms, demanding information from reporters about their sources and newsgathering practices. Cops believe quite a lot of what the press does is wrong: Using leaks, for instance, or protecting the anonymity of sources, or scrutinizing the police.

You don’t have to be a fan of Murdoch’s Fox News or his New York Post or any of his British papers to wince at having their editors interrogated about exactly how well, or how foolishly, or even how recklessly their reporters covered the frantic aftermath of 9/11—how they tried to find people who might illuminate the horror.

And, hey, who’s doing the investigating? Why, it’s those staunch friends of the Fourth Amendment over at the FBI. Continue reading “Hacking is a media scandal, but no reason for a federal crackdown”