PBS Frontline recently ran an episode called "Murdoch's Scandal," detailing the whole News of the World debacle. With all of the intrigue of a spy novel (corrupt police, phone hacking, crooked politicians), this story has managed to disgust as much as intrigue because of the extensive nature of the crimes allegedly involved. In light of this scandal, it seems that given the demand of ratings and the 24-hour news cycle, "infotainment" and the means by which it is obtained dominate the journalistic landscape at the highest levels.
This needs to change. The end does not justify the means, especially when it has the power to hurt so many.
However, who is to blame in cases like these? Obviously, we can point our fingers towards the organizations like News of the World, but its service only responds to a certain demand. Since it seems that so many in the world demand the sort of sensationalized drama found in most tabloids, does the responsibility fall on the people who support such "news?" Like other companies, this organization is only providing what the consumer wants, so does this mean they are exempt from responsibility? In short, no. Just because the demand is there, does not mean that News of the World and organizations like it can invade people's privacy with impunity.
What should be done to make sure that something like this never happens again? The free market advocates might say something like, "The bad press from the incident will inevitably decide the fate of the company." And this is true in the case of News of the World. However, this only happened after people's lives were meddled with, their privacy invaded, and their emotions thrashed. Should we not put into place certain standards by which media outlets operate?
Then again, as the Frontline episode shows, when everyone, even the prime minister, is willing to turn a blind eye and allow an organization to act with impunity, what can be done? As Juvenal asks, "Who watches the watchmen? Who guards the guardians?" In this case, isn't the press supposed to? But they are the ones now allowed to act in whatever way they deem necessary to obtain those juicy tidbits of "infotainment" everyone seems so ready to consume. They are not worried about exposing corruption; they are part of it.
Weigh in: What can be done to combat the malpractice of news agencies? Who should be responsible for regulating them (i.e. rival news agencies, government, celebrities, etc.)?