Rupert Murdoch Apology

Reason for Apology

For “serious wrongdoing” on the part of News of the World staff for intentionally hacking the phones of thousands of people in the UK and US, including politicians, royal family members, celebrities, murder victims (e.g., Milly Dowler whose voicemail was hacked after her death), and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The objective was to clandestinely (and illegally) discover personal information that could subsequently be used to produce sensationalized stories to sell newspapers.

Apology # 1

Murdoch’s first ‘public’ apology was issued through major newspapers:

“The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself. We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out. I realize that simply apologizing is not enough. Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this. In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.”

Apology # 2

Murdoch’s second and more ‘personal’ apology went to the family of murder victim Milly Downer for using information obtained by accessing the deceased girl’s mobile voicemail. In addition to accessing the messages, the staff at News of the World also deleted some messages to make room for new ones -- which gave Milly’s parents hope that she was still alive. While there is no transcript of Murdoch’s apology, or the immediate reaction from family members, there are details that emerged from the meeting that provide some indication of how the apology was delivered and received.

Evaluation

With respect to Murdoch’s ‘public’ apology, the PA team believes it was certainly a good start but nowhere close to what Murdoch, his former staff members at News of the World, and his lawyers will have to do to satisfactorily address the many serious mistakes (and crimes) committed. It is still not known how serious these crimes are, how many lives (like the Dowlers) were affected, and how Murdoch plans to compensate affected victims for these crimes. Consequently, the PA team reserves judgment.

In terms of the second, more personal apology to the family, the evidence derived from reports of that meeting is sufficient for the PA team to assess. According to Mark Lewis, the Dowler’s lawyer who was present during the meeting with Milly’s family, Murdoch “held his head in his hands” and repeated how “very, very sorry” he was for what happened. Lewis went on to state:


“He was very humbled and very shaken and very sincere. I think this was something that had hit him on a very personal level and was something that shouldn't have happened. He apologised many times. I don't think somebody could have held their head in their hands so many times and say that they were sorry.”

Milly’s parents (Sally and Bob Dowler) implored Murdoch to “lead the way to set the standard of honesty and decency in the field and not what had gone on before. At the end of the day, actions are going to speak louder than words.” Murdoch reportedly replied to their request by noting that the actions of his paper were “not the standard set by his father, a respected journalist, not the standard set by his mother”.

According to Lewis: “It has been a big week for the Dowlers to hear people say they are sorry. Both on a political front (including) the deputy prime minister, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition”, and finally Murdoch. With respect to whether these apologies were sufficient for the family, Lewis noted that it was more “a question of forgive but not forget … they won't necessarily forgive the people who intruded on their privacy.”

The personal apology, one of perhaps many Murdoch will have to deliver, satisfied many of the key elements of an effective mea culpa. There is also a very strong likelihood that Milly’s family will receive considerable compensation as a result of legal proceedings initiated by the family.

Rating

Apology # 1 -- pending

Apology # 2 -- 9/10