Posts Tagged ‘David Leigh’

Guradian to hold Masterclass in hacking?

August 9, 2011

I just noticed that the Guardian is holding – for a £500 per person feea two-day course in September ostensibly on “investigative journalism”.

In this intensive, weekend course, two of the UK’s leading investigative journalists will give students the skills needed to reach the next step. Paul Lewis and Heather Brooke will teach the secrets of their trade in a series of interactive workshops and skill-based sessions.

The course will cover among other things “convincing people to talk” and “advice on data journalism” and “the course will reveal how new technology and recent innovations have revolutionised investigative journalism”.

I note – but without much surprise – that there is no mention of ethics anywhere in the course description.

Presumably David Leigh will be the guest lecturer and will explain the techniques of phone hacking  and the importance of always having noble objectives. He could also explain the finer points of utilising the public interest defence under the Data Protection Act to justify non-compliance with the Act. To cover ethics they could invite Rebekah Brooks who is probably available except that she is apparently still on the payroll of News International.

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Phone hacking: One law for the Guardian and another for the News of the World?

August 6, 2011

The list of UK journalists involved in phone hacking just gets longer. After the Mirror it is now the turn of the Guardian.

The Guardian newspaper may have been a major player in exposing the phone hacking scandal in Murdoch’s News of the World, but is not itself free from the cancer. Their investigations executive editor, David Leigh is a self-confessed hacker (5 years ago) but seeks to justify himself because his ends were in the public interest!!

David Leigh obviously considers himself an inherently good guy such that his means are justified by his ends. I am afraid Mr. Leigh’s ethics are a little confused, a little arrogant and not very convincing. The Daily Mail reports that he is to be questioned by the police.

UPDATE! It now seems that David Leigh was probably also involved in some kind of nefarious activity against the anti-global warming community after Climategate. It would seem that police provided him – or the Guardian – with information in contravention of the Data Protection Act. A form of “information laundering” perhaps!! 

Forbes: Jeff Bercovici

Here’s one more irony in a saga that already has plenty of them: The Guardian, the paper most responsible for bringing the phone hacking at News of the World to light, is harboring a confessed phone hacker. That would be investigations executive editor David Leigh, who, in 2006, volunteered that he had used some “questionable methods” to get scoops, including listening to a subject’s voicemail and lying about his identity on phone calls. That admission drew shrugs at the time, but the Guardian’s avidity in pursuing justice for other phone-hackers has given it new relevance. …

Does Leigh’s defense — that what he did was permissible because it was in the public interest and he was transparent about it after the fact — hold water? I put that question to Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute. She thinks it doesn’t.

“The problem with that is he’s suggesting that the ends justify the means,” McBride says. “In most ethical reasoning it doesn’t because it’s a subjective call. For him, it’s exposing bribery and corruption. For somebody else it might be exposing that some pop star lip synchs over his songs.” (That might sound like a big leap of relativism, but think of all the stories that fall somewhere in the middle, like political sex scandals.)

…. Setting aside the lofty realm of ethics, there’s still the practical application of the law to consider. Leigh writes that “there is a public interest defence available under the Data Protection Act” that, in theory at least, protects him from prosecution while enabling the phone-hackers from News of the World to be brought to justice.

Even if that’s the case, McBride says journalists who choose to break the law ought to be prepared to accept the full consequences. That, in itself, is a useful guide for determining whether a story is one of overriding public interest or just a sexy scoop. “If you get 30 days in jail for trespassing, it’s got to be worth going to jail for 30 days,” she says.


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