The revelation that the News of the World is to close in the wake of the phone hacking scandal has rocked the journalism world . But the shock is tempered with a twinge of guilt: NoW is not the only paper to have engaged in disreputable behaviour in the pursuit of a story, yet it has become the sacrificial lamb on the altar of public accountability.
What the public seems to have forgotten, however, is that other newspapers have also, in the past, been accused of illegal practice – most notably in the Whittamore scandal of 2006. It was then that several national newspapers were busted as having paid private investigator Steve Whittamore to snoop information for them, often using illegal methods. The public may have forgotten, but the newspapers certainly haven’t.
As Peter Oborne pointed out in yesterday’s Spectator, there is a striking correlation between the number of accusations made against a newspaper in the Whittamore case and their coverage of the NoW hacking scandal – seen here in this graph:
Coincidence? Looking at the number of stories on the NoW closure in today’s papers, perhaps not.
Number of allegation made against newspaper in Whittamore case (in descending order):
- Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People – 139
- Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday – 91
- News International titles (Sun, NoW, Times, Sunday Times) – 30
- The Guardian – 4
- Daily and Sunday Telegraph – 0
- Independent – 0
(Source: The Spectator Coffee House blog)
Number of pages devoted to NoW closure in today’s papers (in descending order):
- The Guardian – 14 pages
- The Times – 11 pages
- The Independent – 10 pages
- Daily Mail – 8 pages
- Financial Times – 7 pages = Daily Telegraph – 7 pages
- The i: – 6 pages = Daily Mirror – 6 pages
- The Sun – 5 pages
- Daily Express – 3 pages
- Daily Star – 2 pages(Source: Media Guardian briefing)