A New Low for Journalism--and Technology


By Eileen Feretic

The ever-growing revelations involving the phone-hacking scandal of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World--which go back at least as far as 2005--are appalling on many levels. The misdeeds have robbed hundreds, possibly thousands, of people of their privacy, and caused many of them terrible anguish.

The scandal also revealed, once again, that technology has a dark side--or, more correctly, people use technology for dark purposes. Of course, this has been an ongoing problem since the first days of the World Wide Web and email. However, till this scandal erupted, most people thought their voice mail messages were safe. But if the Queen of England's voice mail isn't secure, what hope do the rest of us have?

It makes me wonder if journalism has finally hit rock bottom. What kind of journalist would hack into the voice mails of people whose relatives were killed fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? And what about the parents of a murdered child who frantically left phone messages on their daughter's cell phone, hoping she was still alive? The so-called journalists hacked into those messages too.

When I was a journalism major at Fordham--admittedly a long time ago--along with the mechanics of the craft, we were taught the importance of ethical reporting: Our mission was to inform and educate, to provide news, insight and useful information to our audience. We were held to a high standard of professional integrity.

To help writers and editors follow those guidelines, a number of journalistic organizations provide their members with ethical codes of practice--something I believe all writers and editors should take to heart. But no one needs a written code to know that what the individuals involved in the hacking scandal did was disgraceful and inexcusable.

They broke the law, invaded privacy, abused the trust of their fellow citizens, damaged the credibility of journalists and their publications, and made people everywhere wonder if technology was becoming too pervasive,

We all need to condemn the use of technology and journalism for such despicable endeavors.