Behaving badly is a British media tradition


The phone-hacking scandal in Britain, after slowly gathering steam for at least five years, has exploded into a rich and fast-moving media spectacle.

There’s so much: unscrupulous journalists who pillaged the personal communications of thousands of people looking for dirt; payoffs and hush money to keep the outrage quiet;  wide-ranging public corruption involving bribes to officials in return for leaks of confidential data; regulatory sloth and high-level indifference, and above all, the fate of the world’s leading media empire, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., whose top-circulating British tabloid, The News of the World, has been shuttered, whose London boss has been arrested, and whose $12 billion plan to take over a lushly profitable UK satellite broadcaster has collapsed.

The temptation is keen to look for lessons to apply in this country, where Murdoch’s footprint—The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox News and the Fox entertainment juggernaut—is wide, and he has stepped hard on many toes. Last week the FBI announced a probe into whether the phones of 9/11 victims had been hacked.

Whether News Corp. has a rancid culture of its own here remains to be seen. But before the wrong lessons are applied here, it’s worth remembering how different journalism is on that side of the Atlantic. Consider this: Continue reading “Behaving badly is a British media tradition”