Surveillance, journalism and the dark art of phone-hacking

Journalist ( Esther Vargas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Surveillance. It’s something that makes most of us feel uncomfortable. We shift in our seats, begin looking around the room for otherwise unnoticed cameras, perhaps even gulp a little when we become aware of just how closely we are being watched.

As our world transforms into a greater, more technologically advanced environment, the issue of surveillance and where it lies within our lives is becoming more widespread. But how do our respective professions factor in with this practice? For me personally, surveillance is becoming a pressing issue in the field of journalism.

When you hear the two words paired together, one might begin to conjure up fictitious images of hidden microphones and reporters walking around in trench coats and fedoras. Though I would like to try my best to steer away from a dystopian rant on the matter, it appears that there are many negative connotations surrounding the relationship between the two and very few positive outlooks. From phone tapping scandals to other matters such as the undermining of anonymous sources, surveillance poses a real threat to the very integrity of journalism as we know it.

(My contribution to the context hashtag- Tweet embedded from my Twitter handle @caitlynputt_  18 July 2016)

One of the most infamous examples of surveillance and its place in journalism is highlighted in the News of The World phone-hacking scandal. One of the oldest and most financially stable newspapers of the UK (selling some 2.8m copies every week) News of the World closed its doors in 2011 after the phones of thousands were hacked and voicemails were intercepted spanning over a substantial period of time. Alleged targets from the scandal did not discriminate and included a vast range of individuals from politicians to celebrities, sports people, relatives of deceased UK soldiers and people caught up in the 2005 London bombings. The reputation of a news powerhouse was dissolved instantaneously and the credibility of its affiliates overseas, including Australia, were brought into question over such a blatant breach of privacy.

The two inquiries that followed (The Leveson Inquiry in the UK and The Finkelstein Inquiry in Australia) examined the role of journalism and the ethics surrounding surveillance practices such as phone-hacking. Since the inquiries, many people have argued about who should take responsibility for journalism ethical failings and their accountability on both legal and social grounds (Little 2013, p. 6). The phone-hacking incident is just one example of where surveillance and journalism have intertwined and the ramifications have been significant.

Seguridad journalist ( Esther Vargas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another point to note about the role of surveillance in journalism is the potential threat it poses to protecting the anonymity of sources. In an article published by The Conversation (22 June 2015), the writer notes how an increased surveillance society increases the risk of leaving a trail, especially in the case of investigative stories. On a personal level as an endeavoring journalist, this worries me about the future of protecting our confidants. How much extra precaution should we be taking to ensure our metadata trail is minimal to non-existent? It’s definitely something to think about.

I’ve also linked a short video that summarises the News of the World phone-hacking scandal in more depth for anyone that’s curious to know more.

Feel free to comment your thoughts/reviews below. I’d love to receive feedback from my fellow #ALC205 peers 🙂

Until next week,

– C


Little, J 2013, ‘Ethical Journalism after News of the World’, in J Little (ed.), Journalism ethics and law: stories of media practice, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, pp. 1-17.








19 thoughts on “Surveillance, journalism and the dark art of phone-hacking

  1. Great Blog post Caitlyn!

    The first paragraph especially really grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading.

    You managed to fit so much in a relatively short post- I think that is a true testament to how well you write. The hyperlinks and embedded tweets and media also worked really well and really bring the whole argument together. The Video at the end works well too to round everything off.

    I also liked how you ended your discussion with a question- I think this manages to really gets the reader thinking critically about the issue.

    Can’t wait to read more from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic blog post Caitlyn!

    The title was very intriguing and why I chose to read your post to begin with, especially because ‘the dark art’ reminds me of Harry Potter.

    You write with great clarity, allowing you to get multiple ideas and issues across without writing heavy paragraphs. I think that’s really important as our generation is always ‘busy’ because of the rapid rise in technology, and viewers might not have the time to sit and read excessively long blog posts.

    You also integrated effective and relevant embedded Tweets, photos and videos that complimented your writing.

    Ps. I like how you’ve included your Twitter feed on your blog page.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome blog post-Caitlyn!

    Your post was short and informative which reflects on how well your writing is, you have a very formal but creative style which makes it very easy to read. I enjoyed all of the extra content you included in your post. The links images and the video made the post visually engaging and absorbing. I love the images you created with your writing, as I was reading I could just imagine all these sketchy journalists walking around in coats and fedoras acting very shady which made it fun to read. I also liked the questions you put forth during the piece it made me rethink and consider the previous information I had just received! I defiantly think anonymity is such a concern in journalism today; there needs to be a review on some of the ethical standards in regards to collection of information and data.

    well done and I can’t wait to read more from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first thing that I immediately noticed, was the fantastic and appropriate different forms of media that you had integrated into the blog post. The use of photography really matched and helped tie together the message that you were trying to get across in the post. The form of the post is also very well written and neat, which makes it very easy for the reader to connect with what you are saying, and allows them to conjure up their own thoughts and opinions on the issue.

    Possibly for future posts, more academic research regrading how journalists can conduct surveillance on people of interest would really help critically analyse the issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Caitlyn,

    Your blog post is amazing! I really like the introduction and got me to keep on reading. The flow of post is great and I can follow every single word easily. At the end of the blog, you put a short video that summarises the study case (which is really helpful). It would be better if you put it after you mentioned the case because I did not know you already put the video until I scrolled down to finish reading the blog post. But other than that, I really like this blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Caitlyn,
    Great blog post, very engaging and informative! There were a few spots where I think a citation would have added more impact to your statements. Where you say ‘Alleged targets’ this sentence seems a bit muddled, I understand what your trying to say, but I think it could be worded better.
    While I believe there are journalistic ethical issues in regards to the ‘anonymous source’, it was interesting hearing your point of view. Perhaps interviewees need to be made more aware that anonymity is something of a bygone era? Does it really hold a place in modern journalism?
    Look forward to your next post!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Caitlyn,
    Great work on the blog here! I must say its an engaging blog. You have used the word limit in your favor and provided with active hyperlinks where needed and not using extra words for that information. The blog is well structured and hold the argument you wanted to put forward about phone hacking clearly. Nice use of media and embedded tweets. Using a YouTube video to support your blog worked out really well for you.
    Journalists cross their line many times in order to attain information. Although this kind of practice is unethical. After going through your blog i have so many questions in my mind about phone hacking and my personal use of phone. Are we getting hacked? Are we getting monitored via our phones?
    I think use of few more scholarly source to support your blog would have been good. Otherwise great work!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your blog had a great flow and was very informative. I like the way the you applied the topic of surveillance and Journalism to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. By doing so it gave a real world example of how surveillance and journalism can have scary results. Your hyperlinks were easily read and worked! I really liked your formal tone and easy to follow structure, your photo’s were well placed. The video finished off your blog as it provided information to those unfamiliar with the phone-hacking scandal, but was not integral to the blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Caitlyn

    It is an excellent informative and engaging blog! The topic is shocking me because I knew the government hack and tap citizenry phone. However I cannot believe the civilian (journalist) also surveillance citizenry for their wage.

    You did a great job to cover this topic because perhaps 500words are too short to cover a topic however you well managed to fit in the word limits with perfect example. Moreover the images and tweets are appropriate to your topic so well done! And do not forget that you have to use at least two scholarly sources.

    Then good luck for your rest of assignment!

    Liked by 1 person

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