Pilots fly planes -- that is their craft, just as footballers score goals and locksmiths unlock doors. Journalists, too, have a craft: credibility. If a journalist cannot be believed, his work is truly worthless. It's no small thing -- credibility is not only our craft, it is our most valuable asset.
These thoughts came to mind as I watched the recent unraveling of the scandal involving Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and controlling shareholder of News Corporation, and his British newspaper, The News of the World. Though it had a circulation of 2.7 million, the tabloid was shuttered because too many of its reporters seemingly cast credibility aside and turned to sensationalism. A culture in which true journalism and ethics took a back seat to hacking phones overtook that newspaper.
Judging by the popularity of The News of the World, perhaps that's good business, but it's certainly not journalism.
Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and Rebekah Brooks, who recently resigned from her position as chief executive of News International and was formerly editor of The News of the World, testified on July 19 before a committee of British lawmakers that they knew little to nothing about the details of the phone hacking or about other breaches of ethical conduct at the tabloid, which include allegations that police officers were bribed to provide information on certain stories. Regardless of whether that is true or not, the managers of this newspaper were guilty of negligence and, worse, they were guilty of using sensationalism to sell newspapers.
Journalism is very fragile thing. For it to function as it should, it comes down to a simple matter of trust: You either believe in a news outlet or you don't. And if you betray that confidence, credibility is gone for good -- like a vase that breaks in a thousand pieces, it is impossible to put back together.
- Por Jorge Ramos