Apologies for the ever-worsening quality of my post titles but, as today’s subject is the News of the World, which is produced from Wapping in London’s East End, a bit of cheery Cockney banter seemed in order – not that the editorial staff of the NoW have much to be cheery about today.
By the time I press the “Publish” button on this post, the news will probably have moved on again as this is a fast-developing story. The situation at the moment is that the ex-Editor of the NoW, Andy Coulson, has been arrested in connection with the phone-hacking scandal, as has Clive Goodman, their one-time Royal Correspondent. Simultaneously, formal enquiries are to be launched into allegations of corrupt payments being made to police officers, and into the “culture, ethics and practices” of the British Press.
I don’t intend to launch into a critique of what has emerged over the past few days, save to say that I think the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail, and the subsequent raising of her parents’ hopes when messages were deleted, is one of the most contemptible and offensive pieces of behaviour that I have ever read about. It is clear that suspicions about the management culture and ethos at the NoW – and perhaps more widely within NewsCorp – have been wide spread for quite a long time but that nobody has had the will – or perhaps the evidence – to do anything about it. It sounds as if an autocratic, bullying management style was linked to a corporate culture where getting the story was paramount, no matter what means were used, and where morality had gone out of the window.
This goes a long way towards explaining why nobody ever blew the whistle on what was going on, but it leads me to wonder if there were any formal mechanisms for reporting concerns about matters like this and, if they existed, whether or not they were anonymous? This is a sensitive subject, because the idea of anonymous reporting does not play well in some places. I have vivid memories of explaining, to a room full of managers from Eastern Europe, that it was proposed to introduce a whistleblowers’ hotline at one company that I have worked with. To most of the people I was talking to, anonymous reporting had been an unpleasant reality in their younger years, and was usually followed by the rapid arrival of the Stasi (or equivalent other secret police force) to remove people from their homes and families and make their (often brief) lives a misery thereafter.
My response to these managers’ understandable reactions was to say that it was good practice, allowed people a point of last resort if there was no other way of bringing malpractice to the attention of senior managers, and wouldn’t be abused in a free, democratic society. I’m not sure that I even convinced myself of this at the time but, given what has happened at the NoW, I will be more robust in fighting my corner on this subject, in future.
In the meantime, is there anyone out there who now thinks that NewsCorp would be a suitable custodian of BkyB?