This is starting to look like the ‘déjà vu all over again’ thing. After the UK phone hacking scandal, the government, Labor, Greens, and independents here were determined to go after News Ltd in the hope of finding something they could use against its most trenchant critic. As is normally the case of late, they were cheered on relentlessly by the Fairfax press, which put the boot in daily.
Investigations so far have not found any evidence of wrongdoing by News, but are investigating Fairfax’s Age for hacking into Labor’s database, seeking information on prominent Victorians. Aint it a bitch, getting hoisted with your own petard.
In England, the paper that broke the News of the World hacking scandal, The Guardian, spent masses of column meters of print in exuberant and self righteous commentary about the behavior of their more successful competitor, only to have to conduct a strategic retreat. It now seems that their claim of deleting voice mail from the phone of murder victim, Milly Dowler is false or just plain wrong:
In July the Guardian reported that News of the World reporters had listened to her voicemail and deleted the messages. The paper has now retracted that particular claim.While the hacking of private telephones is reprehensible, there is some evidence that other papers did it as well. It appears very much like cases of the pot calling the kettle black, whereby papers that have a fair bit to hide are going after others in the hope that exposing them as unmitigated bastards somehow vindicates their own wrongdoing.
"It is understood that while News of the World reporters probably were responsible for deleting some of the missing girl's messages, police have concluded that they were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive," the paper reported. The Guardian is considering publishing a correction.
Police have established that the News of the World was not investigating Milly Dowler's phone at the time the crucial messages were listened to and then deleted. Over the weekend there were fresh allegations that police might have inadvertently deleted voicemail messages, or the phone provider deleted messages automatically after they were listened to.
The NOTW scandal needed exposing and that is something that is a responsibility of the remaining media. The trick in avoiding the appearance of hypocrisy or poor reporting is though, getting facts straight in the first place, and not descending into wild exaggeration in the second.