Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

The media, the NotW and the trade in illegally sourced information


So, the News of the World will be no more after this weekend. I can’t say I’ll miss it, although I do feel a little sorry for the staff who will be losing their jobs while the senior executives who allowed the paper’s name to become mud keep theirs.

There is, though, and quite understandably, a lot of gloating going on at the moment. But is this really a victory? I’m not so sure.

In 2006, the Information Commissioner’s Office published a report titled “What Price Privacy Now?“, about the use of illegal methods by private investigators to obtain information for newspapers and other clients. Not all of this is phone hacking, of course (in fact, that’s a fairly small proportion of the total), but the methods used were no less illegal and no less intrusive. In particular, there’s one table which shows the “number of transactions positively identified” as involving illegal and/or intrusive methods and the number of journalists involved, listed by newspaper.  If you download the full document, linked above, it’s on page 9. But here’s the list in simple text format:

Publication Transactions Journalists
Daily Mail 952 58
Sunday People 802 50
Daily Mirror 681 45
Mail on Sunday 266 33
News of the World 182 19
Sunday Mirror 143 25
Best Magazine 134 20
Evening Standard 130 1
The Observer 103 4
Daily Sport 62 4
Sunday Times 52 7
The People 37 19
Daily Express 36 7
Weekend Magazine (Daily Mail) 30 4
Sunday Express 29 8
The Sun 24 4
Closer Magazine 22 5
Sunday Sport 15 1
Night and Day (Mail on Sunday) 9 2
Sunday Business News 8 1
Daily Record 7 2
Saturday (Express) 7 1
Sunday Mirror Magazine 6 1
Real Magazine 4 1
Woman’s Own 4 2
Daily Mirror Magazine 3 2
Mail in Ireland 3 1
Daily Star 2 4
Marie Claire 2 1
Personal Magazine 1 1
Sunday World 1 1

Yes, the data is now nearly five years old, so it doesn’t include the period covered by the NotW scandal. And it’s quite possible that some of the publications at the top of the list have cleared up their act in the meantime. But that’s not what the media themselves are saying.

This may be the end of the road for the News of the World. But it’s not the end of the road for the story. There will be plenty more twists and turns before it’s all over.