We applied to get into a journalism programme many, many years ago, and with hindsight, we're glad that we failed; it's not something that we were cut out for. But the NotW's demise has ceratinly opened a can of worms that must be discomforting for journalists from the old school.
Chris Trotter reflected on this yesterday in a column in the Dom-Post; he opined:
You have to wonder why he did it. The British people were aghast, disgust rising like bile in their throats at the gross moral turpitude of the News of the World.
And yet, there he was: Paul McMullan, deputy features editor of the News of the World from 1994-2001, defending the indefensible on Friday's BBC Newsnight programme.
The casting could hardly have been better, because physically, intellectually and emotionally McMullan was the perfect representative of that doomed newspaper and the morally compromised corporate culture in which it operated.
Slack-limbed, loose-jawed, lank-haired and dead-eyed; speaking in the weak, reedy accents of East London, McMullan's every self-justifying syllable sounded as if it had been pre-smeared with the mud of the Thames. The man would have done credit to Dickens himself.
Challenged by Newsnight's Emily Maitlis to defend the News of the World's hacking into the cellphones of politicians, celebrities, the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and, most egregiously, the inbox of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, McMullan's response was eerily offhand.
"I've always said that I just tried to write articles in a truthful way. And - you know - what better source [for] getting the truth than listening to someone's messages."
In those jarring, self-contradictory sentences, McMullan not only lays bare the extraordinary strangeness of the story he tells himself, but the extraordinary lack of moral scruple that has come to characterise the British tabloid press.
In McMullan's moral universe, it is important to write articles in "a truthful way", but not, apparently, to gather information for those articles in ways that avoid the gross violation of an individual's right to privacy.
What McMullan simply doesn't appear to understand is that the casual resort to immoral means inevitably contaminates, and corrupts, even the most noble of ends.
The latest revelations from the UK are shocking indeed; bribes paid to senior policemen to get information on senior politicians and the Queen, and even a plan to bribe Palace staff to get a Palace phone directory. But at least Her Majesty is a public figure; the phone hacking of bereaved families and even of the departed is absolutely abhorrent to us.
And Trotter makes a good point in the extract above; whether McMullan's candid revelations in the interview were a misguided attempt to justify his actions, or another piece of self-delusion is irrelevant. Journalists resorted to the crudest of means to get the story, but took the view that the end justified the means.
Let's hope that things never descend to this level in New Zealand. The profession has a unique opportunity to evaluate the way it conducts itself, and to ask itself just where the line in the sand should be drawn between legitimate attempts to get a story, and tactics which are a combination of unethical, distateful and illegal
Is that asking too much? We don't think so.