Many of us will have woken up this morning to news of the latest depressing twist in the tragic story of Milly Dowler.
The alleged phone hacking by the News of the World has shifted the media’s focus on to the media itself – and, in turn, to the companies whose advertising helps to pay for it all.
The list of advertisers in last Sunday’s edition of the paper included The Co-operative Group and Tesco.
“We know that you have a lot of questions surrounding recent News of the World allegations,” Tesco said today on its official Facebook page earlier this afternoon.
“These latest allegations will cause huge distress to a family which has suffered enough. It’s now a matter for the police; like everyone, we await the outcome of their investigation.”
It didn’t take long before Facebook users were calling on the supermarket to distance itself from the title.
“Would it be too much to ask Tesco to withdraw their advertising from the News of the World for one week – this coming Sunday – to show the company’s disapproval?” asked one user.
“Unwittingly, the money Tesco spends with the NotW has helped part-fund payments for this phone hacking (I stress unwittingly). I’m guessing the company does not approve of the hacking of a 13 year-old girl’s voicemail. How about it showing that disapproval this Sunday?”
The statement from Tesco suggests it will be business as usual until any official investigation runs its course. However, such is the strength of feeling around today’s news, Tesco may find that its neutrality becomes difficult to sustain.
Clearly the supermarket has done nothing wrong in this instance. But in these days of hashtags and trending topics, how it chooses to handle the toxic media storm could provide an interesting case study on reputation management in the new media age.