It’s awfully lonely out on a story that nobody else is touching, particularly when it’s explosive like this one and you’ve been almost alone on it for several years now. That’s compounded by the fact that for its efforts, the The Guardian has been fought and smeared by the most powerful media corporation in the world, which happens to be run by Rupert Murdoch, the man who, despite being a foreigner, appears to this casual observer across the pond to have the most enduring power of anyone in the UK.
That’s a long way of saying this hacking scandal doesn’t turn into what it has without the dogged efforts of Davies and The Guardian. Can we give them some sort of honorary overseas Pulitzer?
Here in the States, The New York Times, which has swooped in to do some excellent reporting on this scandal, gives the story some run on A9, but underplays the News Corporation angle. Bloomberg does better with a longish story headlined “News Corp. Under Fire for ’Appalling’ Phone-Hack Claims.” The Associated Press gives it 1,100 words. Ford Motor Company pulled all its ads from the News of the World, and other companies are considering joining them.
Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which has all but ignored the scandal, gives it just 349 words of wire copy at the bottom of A11. The headline:
U.K. Tabloid Accused of Hacking Girl’s Phone
Come on, guys.
The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade has the roundup on how the rest of the British press covered it. This is a story it can no longer ignore: It’s page one news in The Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, The Daily Mail, and even in Murdoch’s Times of London. Murdoch’s Sun on the other hand?
Even the News of the World’s sister paper was forced to cover the story, but in mealy-mouthed fashion with just 95 words under the heading “Murdered Milly’s phone ‘got hacked’”.
The Milly Dowler phone-hacking story dominated news broadcasting coverage last night and again this morning. The BBC, ITN and, it should be noted, Sky News, gave the story full measure.
The play this story is finally getting in the UK means the end for Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World in 2002 when it hacked Milly’s phone and who is now CEO of his News International division. The Guardian’s Nick Davies, naturally, is on that story too:
The Guardian has seen invoices submitted by (phone hacker Steve) Whittamore which explicitly record apparently illegal acts. One of Brooks’s assistant editors, Paul McMullan, told the Guardian last year that he personally had commissioned several hundred acts that could be regarded as unlawful and that senior editors were aware of this.
Scotland Yard will want to establish whether, as an editor, Brooks approved the use of her budget for illegal ends; and whether she knowingly published stories that had been obtained by unlawful means. In addition, she is one of the 23 journalists named in Whittamore’s records, allegedly for commissioning access to confidential data from a mobile phone company. Police will want to know whether this happened and, if so, whether it was lawful.
This is from Davies’s original scoop on the Milly Dowler hacking:
The paper made little effort to conceal the hacking from its readers. On 14 April 2002 it published a story about a woman allegedly pretending to be Milly Dowler who had applied for a job with a recruitment agency: “It is thought the hoaxer even gave the agency Milly’s real mobile number the agency used the number to contact Milly when a job vacancy arose and left a message on her voicemail it was on March 27, six days after Milly went missing, that the employment agency appears to have phoned her mobile.”
It also ought to increase the scrutiny of News executives up the chain. Brooks and Coulson, of course, but how about Les Hinton, stonewalling chief executive of Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal and on up? Let’s hope News Corp.’s strategy of buying its way out of a full accounting fails.