A note to start. This is the third time I’m rewriting this piece. The first draft was written after watching a news piece on the phone hacking by the News of the World criminals in London. After calming down and rereading it, I thought that the numerous obscenities that spewed as I wrote it should be deleted. Please don’t take that as a lack of passion on the subject. This third time is after a night’s sleep and a little more thought.
You’ve probably heard about the hacking scandal going on in England. No, this one isn’t about terrorists trying to steal defense secrets nor criminals going after bank accounts. It’s “reporters” from a Murdoch-owned paper hacking into the voice mails of celebrities and others. In the most notorious incident of late, these morons deleted voice mails of a murder victim as the box filled up so they could try to get more material. This gave false hope to the young girl’s family that she might still be alive and who knows what it did to the investigation as they deleted evidence. The report on this evening’s news had News Corp promising a “full investigation” and that’s what has me so exorcised at the moment since it’s a huge business point in my mind.
A number of advertisers – Ford among them – have already canceled ads. Bravo. That’s the sort of response misbehaving companies understand. But here’s what they don’t seem to understand:
Someone did this.
Pretty much obvious, I know, but so is the fact that it probably wasn’t one person. Given how things work in journalism (and I use the term incredibly loosely here), the story using the voicemail materials was seen by an editor who must have asked about sources. My guess is that the editor let higher-ups know about it as well. So let me tell you what should have already been done and why.
The editor and publisher of the paper should have already been sacked. Why? Because it happened on their watch. The “reporters” should have already been fired too. Why? Because they’re criminals and had they robbed a bank and stolen money instead of information you’d dismiss them without a thought. You see, when you’re the boss, you set the tone and draw the lines. There’s a piece in the Times about the editor perhaps being fired but if she had any honor, sense of self-respect or decency, she’d have resigned as soon as this became known. The Romans had a concept called “patriotic suicide”. It was an alternative to dishonor after a bad loss on the battlefield. Obviously I’m not being literal here but every one of the people involved in this should have quit by now and hopefully they’ll all be gone one way or another by week’s end.
The lesson for each of us is that part of our jobs as managers is accepting responsibility for the actions of our team. When those actions are done in our name (the phone hacking was done on behalf of the paper, not for personal gain), we have to be deemed as complicit unless we’ve made it clear that some things are out-of-bounds.
Finally, let’s all remember that people have done this (restating the obvious). Like those who knowingly made bad loans, installed and covered up faulty oil drills, and made tap water burn while denying their drilling is affecting the groundwater, these jerks seem to have no human decency and, therefore, it’s up to those who supervise them to impose it.
You with me on this?