News Corp. – A New Corpse

08profile-articleLarge I was just playing around with ideas for a title about Rupert Murdoch. As usual, I was typing too fast and wrote "New Corpse," instead of "News Corp." It's kinda fitting, so I left it. 

Today, Murdoch went before Parliament to answer questions about his knowledge of the phone tapping scandal by one of his papers, the News of the World. During his testimony, someone tried to attack him

I'm enjoying this scandal as much as the next person, for a number of reasons. 

Rebekah Brooks is a fascinating person (with very nice hair). She seems to have a habit of leaving her bags about and to have a very loose idea about journalistic integrity. This is my favorite Brooks story:

On another occasion in her early days, furious that the paper was about to be scooped by The Sunday Times’s serialization of a biography of Prince Charles, Ms. Brooks disguised herself as a Times cleaning woman and hid for two hours in a bathroom, according to Mr. Morgan. When the presses started rolling, she ran over, grabbed a newly printed copy of The Sunday Times, and brought it back to The News of the World — which proceeded to use the material, verbatim, in its own paper the next day.

The rich dinosaur with the media empire and a family dynasty angle is pulp fiction material. 

This story is so horrifically awful — phone tapping on the 9/11 victims!! — that the villains are unambiguously villains. The only question may be about whether the Murdoch knew about the phone taps. 

It will take some time to answer some bigger picture questions. Has the mainstream press been forced to resort to these desperate measures, because of competition with online news sources and financial pressures due to a dwindling audience? What will be the long term costs of this scandal on the broader News Corp industry and the newspaper industry in general?

Will News Corp be the next media corpse?


13 thoughts on “News Corp. – A New Corpse

  1. Isn’t going through newsworthy people’s garbage already standard operating procedure? It’s hard to top that as far as invasiveness, although it’s perfectly legal.

  2. Going through people’s garbage and recycling is illegal in some (many?) places (Seattle and LA come to mind).
    What’s happened here is an incredible abuse of power by News Corp in league with the police. They did illegal things for financial gain, and they paid off the police to keep quiet about it. I don’t see why we should believe that Sean Hoare’s death was natural. I think it was a message to anyone else who might be thinking of spilling the beans: you’re next.
    I also think it is well within reason to assume this type of phone hacking was going on in the US by people associated with News Corp. The WSJ couldn’t give a crap about Angelina Jolie, but political scandals have proven very useful in getting rid of annoying (to the WSJ and their right-wing corporate overlords) politicians, like Elliot Spitzer or, say, Anthony Weiner.
    Maybe this is the world we live in, but it’s not the world I want to live in.

  3. “Going through people’s garbage and recycling is illegal in some (many?) places (Seattle and LA come to mind).”
    It’s legal in a lot of places, the assumption being that once stuff is on the curb, it has been abandoned.
    “The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that cops can search and seize abandoned property. In essence, once papers or contraband have been thrown into a trash receptacle, it is considered “abandoned” and anyone, including the police, can look through it and claim ownership. A trash search will not constitute an illegal search and seizure in the eyes of the law.”

  4. What’s happened here is an incredible abuse of power by News Corp in league with the police.
    That is the big deal of it, but I don’t know if that part crossed the Atlantic.

  5. In the U.S., public officials and clerks are pretty regularly put through the wringer for releasing information that they were not supposed to release. For someone in the U.S., the risk of taking money from a journalist to release info about a private individual is far greater than in the U.K.

  6. Wendy,
    Journalists are “anyone,” too. Cops aren’t getting a special privilege here, they’re just enjoying the same privilege as everybody else.
    “For someone in the U.S., the risk of taking money from a journalist to release info about a private individual is far greater than in the U.K.”
    That’s interesting that they’re so lax about releasing private information, while having tough libel law.

  7. Felix Salmon is really good on this, as is the Guardian.
    Salmon, “The message, repeated ad nauseam from both Rupert and James, was clear: they’re very important people running very large businesses, and they simply didn’t know what was going on far below them in the News Corp org chart.
    “I doubt anybody really believes it — not given Murdoch’s longstanding reputation for being a hands-on micromanager where his newspapers are concerned. But in its own way, the Murdochs’ decision to push back against MPs was a show of strength — a clear sign that they were going to fight rather than let this scandal bring them down. Their regular professions of ignorance even with regard to very important questions — whether News Corp is still paying Glen Mulcaire’s legal fees, for instance — were carefully pitched to come across as stonewalling rather than incompetence.”
    As for the question of whether competition is forcing journalists to (for example) bribe police to cover up the improper use of state security powers, I think it answers itself. Does competition in financial markets force people to be insider traders?
    Salmon again, “But suffice to say that News Corp’s US subsidiary, News America, ended up paying $655 million to silence charges of corporate espionage and anticompetitive behavior, including hacking into rivals’ computer systems.”
    What became of the executive who was responsible for the division that led to this payout? He became publisher of the New York Post and is now head of News America. Why do you ask?

  8. Speaking of journalists and the law, back when I was a journalism student in college, my reporting professor offered extra credit for every copy of a police report we could secure. The idea was that this was technically illegal (it was CA), but that our instructor (an LA Times guy) wanted us to stretch our journalistic muscles by getting people to break the law for us. (He said that part quite explicitly.) For the record, I got about a dozen police reports (which was pretty good), but a classmate scored several dozen.
    There’s a lot of shadiness in standard operating procedures, particularly since in the US, it’s practically unthinkable that a journalist would be prosecuted for doing their job (the person who won’t reveal their sources is usually thought of as a free press martyr, rather than a lawbreaker). There probably should have been prosecutions for some of the NYTs publications of US military secrets, but the NYT is such a sacred cow that’s unimaginable–it would be like the president prosecuting the Supreme Court. Here’s Mickey Kaus comparing Carl Bernstein’s condemnation of Murdoch’s company’s activities with Carl Bernstein’s own Watergate-era activities:

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