The murky practices at the News of the World are bad news for the wider world of journalism.
Reporters are accustomed to being close to the bottom - if not bottom - of popularity polls, just above or below MPs and estate agents - but this dismal saga is pushing us further down.
Amid the calls for official inquiries into “the media” and media “ethics,” it should be remembered that there is a wide gulf between national tabloid journalism and regional news reporting.
Yet there is a danger that all journalists, whether national or local, are, by association, guilty of similar practices.
I would not have a clue how to hack into anyone’s phone, nor would I ever wish to. I just cannot imagine the regional press ever getting involved in such despicable behaviour.
But in all the vitriol heaped on NoW and News Corporation, it should also be remembered that the title has uncovered many stories that needed exposing, such as the betting scam involving Pakistani Test cricketers.
In the vicious world of tabloid competition, pressure is intense to produce exclusive after exclusive. The newspaper-buying public clamours for the next titillating or revelatory read.
And still buy the papers in their millions. But sadly, in the fevered world of journalism, these pressures appear to have persuaded harassed reporters - and probably executives - to lose moral compass.
The same goes for a few police officers who may benefit from alleged bungs. Few should be surprised. A steady stream of exclusives does not come from reading press releases.
The NoW scandal is revenge time for MPs who have been pilloried by the press, often justifiably, as in the case of expenses fraud. Competing titles are also rubbing their hands.
It’s all highly unsavoury. Murdoch is already in the dock. And there is surely no way his bid for full control of BSkyB can be approved in the present climate. But again, remember the positives.
Sky News is a valued addition to our media scene, providing a credible competitor to the BBC and, in many cases, doing things better. Cricket coverage has improved under Sky sponsorship. And The Times has been kept afloat by profits made elsewhere in the Murdoch empire.
But an over-dominant player poses risks to the overall media scene.
The UK has a lively media landscape, in many ways more interesting that say in France or the US. The public is generally well-served at national and regional level.
The despicable apparently systemic behaviour of individuals at a particular title - for which they will in time face prosecution - should be no reason for the public to proclaim “a plague on all your houses.”
Most journalists work honourably within the law and do their best to report news, expose local wrongdoing or uncover the secrets that officials would prefer to remain hidden from the public.
It is important to outlaw hacking and to crack down on the evils at NoW. Excessive practices elsewhere may also need curbing. But neither the victims nor the public would probably wish to see a fettered, frightened press emerging from any media inquiry and the backlash this scandal has unleashed.
If it does, we risk letting officialdom and bad business off the hook.