Although not a defense of NOTW.
I can imagine a situation where some Democratic operative came up to me and said, “we hacked into Rob McKenna’s phone and found something important.” Sure, almost certainly not me; a more reputable journalist, columnist, or blogger. But hear me out.
So let’s say this party hack came to me with definitive proof that some Republican of import had broken the law in some way that was worse than phone hacking itself. I’d imagine that I’d post something about it, or at least dig further based on their hacking. I’d presumably mention the hacking in the post if if was worthy of a post. Basically if it’s important enough a story, I can imagine being honest and letting the chips fall where they may.
That’s a very different thing from finding out whatever Jude Law and Hugh Grant are doing. And of course corrupting the police and deleting messages is so beyond the pale, I can’t imagine there ever being a circumstance I’d find it OK.
The point isn’t of course to exonerate News of the World or News Corp, only that calling it a phone hacking story kind of makes it sound not as terrible as it is.