Rupert Murdoch's Phone Hacking Scandal Now Includes Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Scotland Yard

We noted this morning that the phone hacking scandal plaguing now-shuttered British tabloid News of the World, though it can be traced back for years, had metastasized into a crazy cancer including a possible September 11 connection, rattling Rupert Murdoch's entire News Corporation empire. Like the last few days, Monday included a rash of new subplots in the story and while the 9/11 part has yet to be substantiated, there are credible new bits about others who may have had their phones and voicemails compromised including Scotland Yard, the very investigators who first looked into the phone hacking in 2006, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In other words, it keeps getting uglier. Elsewhere in ugliness, for inclusion in our daily media column Press Clips, some aggregation missteps at the Huffington Post and salary numbers for full-time freelancers.

Murdoch Madness: The New York Times reports that initial law enforcement peeks into the News of the World hacking scandal had the story-hungry, rule-breaking journalists going aggressively after the very people looking into their wrongdoing. Scotland Yard investigators "discovered that their own mobile phone messages had been targeted by the tabloid and had most likely been listened to," leading to questions "of whether senior criminal investigators had concerns that if they aggressively investigated The News of the World, they would be punished with splashy stories about their secrets, some of which were tabloid-ready." And in fact, two of the officers were later the subject of spicy tabloid stories.

The day's other headlining-grabbing phone-hack chatter surrounds former prime minister Gordon Brown, who was the target of other News International journalists -- meaning other Murdoch minions, not necessarily News of the World people -- who wanted to get into his voicemail, medical records and bank account, the Guardian reports.

Liar, Liar: Speaking of Murdoch's newspapers, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post is casting more doubt on the New York Post story that claimed Dominique Strauss Kahn's accuser worked as a prostitute. The woman, whose rape charges against the former IMF head still exist for now, has already filed a libel suit against the NYC tabloid for saying she would "bring in the big bucks" as a "working girl" while also cleaning hotel rooms and Wemple got his hands on documents that may show the New York Post knew its single anonymous source about the prostitute claims was unreliable.

If the Post did indeed know the claims were untrue and chose to print the story anyway, the woman could possibly win her libel suit, which needs to prove that the paper was purposefully reckless with her reputation, despite knowing they had bad info.

Over Aggregating: After an Ad Age writer complained that his article was too liberally quoted from by the Huffington Post with not enough linkage or referring traffic, HuffPo suspended the writer of the aggregation in question, a young Yale grad named Amy Lee, indefinitely, despite the fact that much of HuffPo's content works exactly the same way.

One ex-HuffPo employee complains:

That is what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories "the way the AP does." They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people's work. Whenever they get caught they just blame an underling. These poor kids right out of school who have no experience get told to do XY and Z and then get punished for doing it.

At The Awl, the suspension of the young writer is compared to "arresting hookers instead of johns, or drug users instead of drug importers," though it should be noted that both of those things are usually -- too often! -- the way things work.

We reached out to Lee, the suspended writer, with a few more questions, but have not heard back.

$$$: How much can you make as a freelance writer? Either under $20,000 or over $100,000! But probably the former.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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