爱思英语编者按：近日，"窃听门"惊动英国政坛乃至全世界，高级官员引咎辞职，检举人意外身亡。逐步升温的风暴背后，既是对当今传媒大亨( media tycoon)们统治地位的挑战，更是对媒体人士良心的拷问。
A true history of scandal
The scandal over alleged phone hacking by journalists at The News of the World (NOTW), has grown legs.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for an emergency session of parliament.
Two top police officers have quit their jobs and Sean Hoare, a former staff member who exposed phone hacking, has been found dead.
Cameron said that a "firestorm" has hit the media and police. The growing scandal threatens media boss Rupert Murdoch's empire and even the British government.
It would seem that journalistic standards have slipped and tabloids will go to any lengths to get an exclusive story.
Newspapers such as the NOTW once prided themselves on exposing corruption and hypocrisy and shaming wrongdoers.
But somewhere along the line, the NOTW became more interested in "kiss-and-tell" stories about stars, sportsmen and politicians.
Each week the NOTW, Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspaper, featured paid-for stories from young women about their affairs with famous soccer players who were caught "playing away from home". The newspaper thrived on scandal, the juicier the better.
However, there's nothing new about the popular press employing questionable means to get exclusive stories.
Muckraking, or yellow journalism, has a long tradition which goes back 250 years in Britain.
The Digger is a weekly newspaper based in Glasgow. It is devoted to reporting and investigating crime. The editor's philosophy is simple: "I want you to upset and annoy people in authority and to expose drug dealers".
The Digger reminded one experienced journalist of 18th century news sheets.
These forerunners of tabloid newspapers carried colorful reports of bloody crimes, robbery and public executions. They were extremely popular.
In the 19th century reporters covering cases at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court in London, provided a diet of murder and mayhem for the press.
Meanwhile respectable newspapers carried shipping news, reports of royal visits and summaries of Parliamentary business.
As more British people learned to read, newspaper sales rocketed.
In the US in the 19th century many newspapers carried sensational stories meant to anger or excite readers.
The Daily Mail was launched in 1896 in the UK. Lord Salisbury, then British prime minister, described it as a "newspaper written by office boys for office boys".
In the 20th century press giants Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere enjoyed power and influence. Today, Rupert Murdoch's media empire looks increasingly vulnerable.