Privacy needs to be respected across the media spectrum

On July 4, The Guardian broke the story that News of the World, a widely circulated British tabloid, hacked into murdered victim Milly Dowler’s phone. Within the hour, all the major newspapers had her image on the main page of their websites with headlines exclaiming astonishment at News of the World’s audacity and skepticism about the future of its leadership.

The Guardian’s front page story quickly snowballed, and the media appropriately nicknamed the affair “Murdochgate,” likening the allegations of hacking and police bribery to the Watergate scandal.

What’s more interesting is that this is the not the first time News of the World has been accused of phone hacking: A former editor and private investigator for the newspaper were charged with breaking into phones of the British royal family.

There were a number of other hacking incidents of high-profile celebrities,such as that of Elle Macpherson, Sienna Miller and British M.P. Simon Hughes. Unsurprisingly, these incidents were a hush-hush affair, silenced by the soothing sounds of money.

I had to wonder: Why the hacking of these victims was not a bigger deal? Then I had to remind myself of the outrage I felt reading about the Dowler situation versus the limited empathy I felt toward the royals’ privacy being compromised.

It’s one thing when starlets and politicians are the victims of hacking, but it’s a completely different story when you’re compromising the investigation of a murder victim.

Or is it?

Hacking is wrong no matter who the victim is. However, we as people likely have more compassion for Dowler’s family, who represents innocence and normalcy — traits that seem less justifiably tampered with than glamour and fame.

That being said, our burning desire to read about sensationalized scandals, the lives of celebrities and their mishaps and misdemeanors have undoubtedly fueled the tabloid culture. Unfortunately, this thirst for gossip is certainly behind some newspapers’ quest to do whatever it takes, including hacking.

Perhaps, as readers, we need to understand that our desire to hear about the genuineness of Kim Kardashian’s butt, or the latest development in the Charlie Sheen melodrama plays a role in the tactics that seem to have become synonymous with the tabloid media.

_Nishat is a senior in LAS._