Forgetting the Scoop—Murdoch Closes News of the World

This is big…this is HUGE! The PR consequences of the phone hacking scandal conducted by a private investigator working on a story for the News of the World is one for the books…lessons to be learned and hopefully never to be repeated again. For those unaware, this News Corp “news agency” hired a private investigator that hacked into the cell phone records of a missing teen later found dead. The PI allegedly deleted voice mails thus impeding the police investigation. Is this an acceptable way to use social media technology to get the scoop?

 Today, according to CNET Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for an inquiry in this country, because there is concern that the phone hacking “may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans”. http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20079200-245/u.s-senator-seeks-murdoch-investigation/

 According to Arthur Yann from PR Daily, “…yesterday The Guardian reported that reporters from The Sunday Times, News International’s venerable broadsheet, had attempted to hack the voicemail of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown while he was in office.” http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/8872.aspx

One has to think…what was the editorial staff at News of the World thinking? Who approved such a thing? Social media has changed the rules for many industries, but there are considerable boundaries that can’t be overstepped…or ignored. . Fortunately, I have worked with wonderful journalists who conduct research, ask questions, get the backup they need, and don’t cross the invisible digital line. However,  to see a 167 year old publication die after just a few days since news of the scandal has become public is rather disconcerting.   Kind of interesting that in getting the scoop,  News of the World was scooped…by their own wrongdoing.   The cost in this bloggers opinion is immeasurable:

  • The loss of an estimated 200 editorial jobs.
  • Lack of CSR which cast a shadow of doubt on News Corp and possibly many of it’s media properties.
  • The adage on the playground, “It only takes one bad apple to ruin the entire crop.”
  • Lingering question…did Murdoch close the publication down because he feared what other lines they have crossed?

Murdoch is going to have to work diligently to instill confidence surrounding his organizations. The first thing is to work to resolve this and make information public. The second, be consistent and transparent surrounding your messages to stakeholders (consumers, investors, media, etc.). The third, focus on maintaining credibility of his other media properties. The fourth…and in my opinion the most important, work on becoming the premier “truthful” media entity, and put in place a corporate program of truth-telling.

In an effort of being transparent, I have worked with numerous News Corp reporters in the past, and I can tell you that they have conducted themselves with journalistic integrity.  Open, honest, truthful!

While getting the scoop in journalistic terms is significantly important, one of the first rules of journalism has been to never get involved in a story. Busted? Now what? It will be interesting to see how Murdoch’s legal pros and communication team handles this.

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