News International in front of the Select Committee

Former News of The World editor Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges. Fellow former editor Andy Coulson found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones.

The former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey.<

Brooks, the one-time editor of the News of the World, was overcome with emotion as she was found not guilty of involvement in a conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006, as well as misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

But while Brooks walked free from court to a waiting black cab today, her fellow former editor and ex-Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson was found guilty on one count of phone hacking.

The jury returned this morning after continuing its deliberations for an eighth day, following the high profile trial that began in October last year.

Brooks and Coulson, along with retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, had been accused of being part of a conspiracy to hack phones over the course of a six-year period.  – The Independent, Adam Withnall

In July of 2012 I hosted a Book Salon on Tom Watson’s and Martin Hickman’s book: Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain. At the time I remember thinking what a great story it was and I wanted to learn how we could have a similar impact on Fox News and News Corp here in the US.

Now we see what political power can get you. I’m sure there is a lesson for us here in the US. I remember thinking, “With a combo of good journalists, lawyers and politicians we could uncover dirt at Fox News.” We could even use the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act. But the trick was to find others who felt as strongly as I did.

I’m an idealist and a fighter. I’m not a prosecutor or politician. One of my big take aways from this trial is that your target and goals don’t have to be the same. The King will protect his favorites but he will also sell out almost anyone else to do it. Aim for the top knowing the King will even burn the Prince if necessary, which gets you the Prince! The Prince’s crimes are just as bad, and that can lead to reforms.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

This last week I’ve been rather depressed about the ability of powerful people to skirt and use the law, the political system and a cooperating media to avoid accountability. 

But I don’t want to discount all the good work that was done by the journalists, lawyers and politicians like MP Tom Watson who brought this hacking case to light. It was used to reign in some of Murdoch’s power.

I sometimes wonder, “What can we do to reign in Roger Ailes power?” Is there a strategic campaign to make it happen? We can see that it’s not just money in politics that has an impact, it is also the media in politics. Murdoch loses 100′s of millions of dollars on some newspaper properties because he knows that is a different kind of power. (Which reminds me of the old joke, “Sure we lose money on every paper we sell but we make it up in VOLUME!”) Murdoch wants and has VOLUME!

LOL Comedy Media, But We Need the Real Media Too

The people that really cover the media today are the comedy media. The comedy media is great, but their work doesn’t lead to prosecutions, firings, civil damages and prison time. I’m sure Colbert and Stewart will have a hilarious story about this case but they are just reacting to and mocking the media. The non-comedy media shouldn’t be afraid of taking on Fox News, but they are since they think they might get a job there some day.

Maybe Fox News Shouldn’t get the Press Exemption 

I don’t think Fox News is a “Press entity” but the house PR and advertising firm for the Republican party and the conservative agenda. (FEC might even agree with me see press exemption part some day.) A story about illegal actions going on behind the scenes at Fox would help make this clear. The story about Alies and his PR guy could have been a criminal case if we had some of that zeal for prosecution here in the US instead of pay offs.

Remember, the phone hacking was just one part of the whole story. The News of The World team were lying, stealing and hacking on an industrial scale. This included breaking and entering homes and bribing police and government record keepers to get information. Hacking the kidnapped (later found dead) girl’s phone made the news because it was so disgusting. But long before her story NOTW people had been paying off police, hacking into celebrities’ computers, phones and hospital files.

Many think celebrities are whiners who give up their privacy rights for fame. But the case also showed that politicians’ and the royals’ phones were hacked. What if you found out that Fox News in the US did this with our politicians and celebrities? Might we’d be pissed off enough to take them to court? Would we need to see a morally repugnant hack? I suppose they could say they were doing it for national security (“We are helping the military!” but we know it really would be for entertainment or power. All the while they will be screaming, “We are the MEDIA! We have First Amendment Rights!” Then we can now point out that Andy Coulson went to jail for his illegal acts, he was the media too, but he wasn’t doing it for a noble purpose. 

Win Win. Win. Win. Win Win. 

The good news is that the uncovering of this scandal had and is still having an impact. News of the World was shuttered. A major TV property that Murdoch wanted to buy was scuttled. Corruption at the level of police and politicians were uncovered. Andy Coulson was found guilty. One or more people will go to jail.

None of this would have happened if everyone just shrugged and said, “We need to look forward.” Things that are illegal are still illegal, even though it takes a morally repugnant example to remind people. This didn’t just turn into a big fine to be written off out of profits.

So in the face of depression and sense of powerlessness I see some brightness. I remind myself and others of the successes.

I also want to help reward and encourage the people who did the good work, even if the King wasn’t toppled. Therefore I suggest you pre-order the book that Martin Hickman is publishing by Peter Jukes Title Embargoed: The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial.  

Peter has been live tweeting the trial. The book contains the stuff that doesn’t fit into 140 characters as well as things they couldn’t report, history of the case and the bigger issues of the press, privacy and power. Maybe when it comes out we can do a book salon with them here.

Image by Surian Soosay under Creative Commons license