Real News Vs. Rupert Murdoch & News of the World
READERS NOTE: This post is a departure from the other posts I’ve put up on this site. This is an Op-Ed piece. The views and opinions expressed on this page are solely my own and are not reflective of the views, opinions or policies of any individual or organization with whom I am associated with, do business with or are employed by.
That said, on with the blog:
There has been a lot of discussion around the globe lately surrounding the collapse of the UK tabloid News of the World and the phone-hacking scandal that brought on their downfall. A downfall that was absolutely rightly deserved.
A few friends have said to me, “So what do you think about this whole News of the World thing? What does this mean for people in the news business like you?”
“It means nothing to me. I’m real journalist. I don’t work for Rupert Murdoch. And I never would.”
Actor Hugh Grant, who has been the victim or News of the World phone-hacking, has been quite outspoken on this subject on UK television.
Rupert Murdoch can in no way be confused with other names in journalism like Joseph Pulitzer, Horace Greely, or CBS tycoon William Paley. Rupert Murdoch got into the business or one reason and one reason alone: to own a well-known and established newspaper and use that as a platform for money and power. Plain and simple. A major name newspaper bellows with a big voice and Rupert Murdoch always used that bully pulpit to help out the conservative party in the UK. By helping the Torreys, they snuggled up to him and then he acquired power by association. When get in bed in party politics, the party that you are helping to benefit helps you in return by arranging legislation and helping to protect you from any, or at least most, unlawful dates that you may do in bending the law in building up your paper and make you more powerful.
Murdoch used is news of the world power and profits to get into the United States newspaper business in New York and then on into leverage in 20th Century Fox and then creating the Fox News Channel. The ultimate in “Fair And Balanced” journalism – as long as you were a right-wing Republican. Anything the GOP wanted to say, Murdoch has given them – and still does give them – an open platform. When Vice-President Dick Cheney let loose with a shotgun, accidentally wounding a friend who he was hunting with, what warm and fuzzy news channel did he go on to make his one and only interview about that incident? Rupert Murdoch’s “Fair And Balanced” Fox News. Where else could he get “hardball” questions that we feel more like a warm and fuzzy electric blanket to comfort him?
It should also be strongly noted that the illegal phone-hacking that was going on at The News of the World had nothing to do with on-the-street working journalists and everything to do good and do executive decision-making. The hiring a private investigator to undertake the phone-hacking and the paying for his attorney bills throughout his prosecution by the British courts could only be authorized by a top-tier are executive with The News of the World.
The other huge issue of paying bribes to release or phone numbers and information is another case in point. The bribes were no small petty cash, out-of-pocket sums like $50 or $100 for $1000. These bribes ranged from £5000-£30,000 – the equivalent of $7,500-$50,000. These could only be executive decisions made at top levels to authorize these huge of sums of money. If the top executives of The News of the World, such as the president of the paper Rebecca Brooks, had taken responsibility for these actions and resigned, The News of the World very likely would still be publishing and thousands of honest, hard-working people would still be employed.
If there is any justice in this it is that Rebekah Brooks as been arrested and now faces serious crimes before the UK courts. Also, the British conservative party, which has been out into power by the association with Rupert Murdoch and News of the World, can’t brush their sleeves fast enough of this matter and are enough and are rallying to condemn the paper and those former allies who are responsible for it.
It should also be noted that the UK press has long had an established history for paying or interviews. That is a case for the basic working media in the US. (This is excluding “entertainment news” that the networks run in primetime where people are frequently hired as “consultants” on a subject and are interviewed in stories as “paid consultants.”) I never have known of anyone who has paid or offered anything for an interview, and never would be associated with anything like that. For the first thing you destroy any credibility that the interview would have. If you pay for something, then you are entitled to something in return and the person being paid might feel an obligation to say what ever the interviewer would want to hear. The credibility of his blows and the interview is worthless.
It should also be noted that the UK laws on these matters are different from US laws. Here in US journalists only go to jail for not revealing their sources, no matter who they are or what horrible deed they may have done. In fact, Vice-President “Dick Cheney’s right-hand man Scooter” Libby was a protected source on many stories, including the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
In this Fox News interview dealing with the phone-hacking scandal Fox brought in a professional PR man to address phone-hacking by meaning the victims of phone-hacking and lumping News of the World in with them. The huge difference is that News of the World was the instigator in phone-hacking.
So this whole News of the World affair means nothing to me. They were scum and they’ve gone down. That’s about as close to justice is to. It’s unfortunate that hundreds of decent working people had to go down with that ship, but the vast majority of them signed on to News of the World knowing that it was a Murdoch operation and everything that went with it. That’s what happens when you get in league with someone who’s sole interests are profit and power. They begin to think that money buys honesty – that nothing can keep you more clean than having lots of green. I can only hope that the investigations into Rupert Murdoch and his business and news operations get similar scrutiny in this country.
Recently in a hearing before the British Parliament, Rupert Murdoch, who has supported the taking of personal responsibility, was asked if he felt responsible for News of the World and it’s atmosphere of news and phone-hacking decision-making. His reply, “Nope.”
Sometimes when I’m working with a new reporter who is writing a story on a deadline they may say something like, “Gee, I’m not sure how to write this.” I always say to them, “Just keep it simple. All you have to do is tell the truth and everything will be okay.”
Joseph Pulitzer once was asked what the three most important tenants of journalism were and he replied, “Accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy.”
Good words to live by.