Britain’s popular newspaper, News of the World, was shut down July 2011 as a result of an illegal telephone eavesdropping scandal aimed at finding out information on which to base stories. Newspaper staff illegally listened to voicemails of murder victims, politicians and celebrities in Britain. A number of News of the World journalists, along with the former newspaper’s editor Andy Coulson, face charges of illegal telephone hacking. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, which owned News of the World, denied involvement in the scandal, yet confirmed his opinion that senior executives tried to prevent news of the phone hacking controversy from reaching his executive suite.
CEO image is an increasingly important factor in company reputation. Reputation management pros and PR executives are working overtime to prevent the fallout from damaging News Corporation's other valuable properties.
"The allegations against Rupert Murdoch threaten a remarkable career and have tarnished the legacy of one of the most significant public figures of the past 50 years," says Todd William, reputation management expert and Reputation Rhino founder and CEO.
The hacking scandal also underscored growing fears about cybersecurity and the protection of data in general. Enterprise software companies like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Altibase are continually seeking to improve security protections for Big Data applications and storage solutions.
The first records of the phone hacking scandal date to 2006, when royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were found to be receiving voicemails from royal aides. The men were jailed, yet additional allegations surfaced in 2011. All in all, over 4,000 people were identified as possible victims of the hacking, including athletes, politicians, actors, families of dead soldiers and victims of the July 7 London bombing. Most of the cases involving athletes, politicians and actors were settled in civil cases. Some of the more notable cases included author JK Rowling; actress Sienna Miller; singer Charlotte Church, and her parents; former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell; and Sara Payne, the mother of a murdered eight-year-old schoolgirl in a crime that captivated the country.
Access to the voicemail systems was quite easy for the journalists. At the time of the scandal, cell phones came equipped with a generic four-digit pin number, which was rarely changed. Taking a chance, the journalists and private investigators called the numbers and when no one answered, they entered the default pin and gained access to the personal voicemails.
Numerous police investigations, led by Scotland Yard in the United Kingdom and the FBI in the United States, are currently in progress. The U.S. became involved when it was brought to light that some 9/11 victim’s families were targeted in the scandal. "A number of lawsuits are currently in progress against News International and News Corp — it is open season from a litigation perspective," says Adam Kutner, a personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"At a time when print media is under siege from an array of forces beyond its control, like declining advertising revenue and shrinking readership, the reputation damage in this scandal was a self-inflicted wound that will take a long time to heal," says William.
Image Credit: Final NOTW cover” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.