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The Missing Word: News “Corp” vs It’s Critics

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial has the title “News and its Critics”—obviously, it’s missing a word. The piece’s real title should be “News Corp and its Critics,” or even better, “News Corp vs. its Critics.” It’s a piece by News Corp, for News Corp. The problem is, the ugly 1044-word attack on the company’s “competitor-critics” alternates between catty defensiveness, a drunk beat poet, and utter incomprehensibility. One can only stand in awe of a conglomerate that would mass print an “aw-shucks” apology across one country while sending the Journal to do its dirty work in another. Some of the editorial’s phrases are almost self-parodying:

The overnight turn toward righteous independence recalls an eternal truth: Never trust a politician.

The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.

Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur.

But, beyond redolence, imprimaturs, chainsaws, and Schadenfreude, the editorial’s argument—insofar as one is discernible—is so dishonest that it has the opposite of its intended effect. You come out of the piece trusting News Corp and the Journal far less than you might have before.

The first “point”:

Phone-hacking is illegal, and it is up to British authorities to enforce their laws. If Scotland Yard failed to do so adequately when the hacking was first uncovered several years ago, then that is more troubling than the hacking itself.

Of course, when “the hacking was first uncovered several years ago,” News Corp did a more than adequate job of bribing British authorities to keep them at bay. As David Carr pointed out yesterday, the company’s fondness of drowning legal problems in hush money has been pervasive, far from the domain of a single tabloid. “We didn’t get caught” is about as bad an excuse as they come, especially with the tactful omission of “…because we bribed the police.”

The second point is a dicey defense of resigned Journal publisher Les Hinton, which fails to mention the reason for his resignation: ostensibly, the two times he stood before the Houses of Parliament and said that only one News International journalist had ever hacked a phone.

The piece then moves inexplicably into self-defense mode, claiming that, well, even if News Corp is a bit unsavory, the company has improved the Wall Street Journal. Of course, a revitalized Journal must be of great consolation to hacking victims, who must also “shudder to think what the Journal would look like” under the dreary Bancrofts. And so we breeze right along to find the paper arguing for the legality of paying sources for information. But “the Wall Street Journal doesn’t pay sources for information.” So who does? Other News Corp outlets?

Again, we move on too fast to find out, and close with the same shoddy reasoning that Murdoch himself has already aired out in the Journal’s pages. Namely, that News of the World’s behavior constituted nothing more than journalistic overreach, and that cracking down on News Corp means inhibiting freedom of the press:

Do our media brethren really want to invite Congress and prosecutors to regulate how journalists gather the news?

News Corp outlets broke the law. And yet, the word “crime” is not mentioned once in the editorial. The Journal goes for a brazen euphemism, instead claiming that the tabloid’s “excesses” do not damage the reputation of its sister outlets:

The News of the World’s offense—fatal, as it turned out—was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly. We realize how precious that reader trust is, and our obligation is to re-earn it every day.

The News of the World’s “offense” was to commit crimes, then lie and bribe to cover them up. “Trust” is a convenient, slippery term for the Journal to use. But surely, a paper of such clout must realize that its readers know the difference between breaking trust and breaking the law. At any rate, it’s likely that News Corp is soon to find out for itself.

By: Alex Klein, Guest Columnist, The New Republic, July 18, 2011

July 19, 2011 Posted by | Corporations, Journalists, Media, Press, Public | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CNN Ignores Piers Morgan’s Connection To News Corp Scandal

Ex-News of the World Editors Piers Morgan, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson (Brooks and Coulson have been arrested)

The ongoing News Corp. hacking scandal has given competitors a likely long-sought chance to tear into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, with CNN leading the way. According to a Media Matters report, CNN reported on the scandal 107 timesover the same period of time MSNBC and Fox News reported on it 71 and 30 times, respectively. But while the Time Warner news network may smell blood, some may be emanating from their own studios.

Piers Morgan, the British journalist and talk show host who took over for CNN’s venerable Larry King earlier this year, is a former editor of the now-defunct News of the World, the tabloid at the center of the hacking scandal. Moreover, Morgan has been implicated in a separate celebrity phone hacking scandal while he was editor of the U.K’s Daily Mirror.

But so far, CNN has failed to report any of this. A ThinkProgress search covering the last 30 days of several media monitoring services and CNN’s own website, show the network has not so much as mentioned Morgan’s connection to the failed News Corp. tabloid, nor the separate Mirror allegation.

A CNN spokesperson confirmed the lack of coverage to Ad Week last week, “saying that the network hasn’t covered the matter because Morgan has not been officially called to testify in England.”

Morgan himself did address the issue on Monday, telling a CBS talk show that neither he nor his former publication have broken any laws.

The allegations are especially troubling given this passage from Morgan’s 2005 book, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade:

Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.

As Ad Week notes, “Morgan has been sounding a fairly sympathetic note about Murdoch.” In the CBS interview, he said, “I’m not going to join the Murdoch bashing. I’ve always been a big admirer of his. He gave me my first break in journalism. He made me editor of [News of the World] when I was 28 years old.”

Update

This afternoon (7/17) on CNN’s Reliable Source, Howie Kurtz briefly noted Morgan’s connection to News Corp. Kurtz said that the media should “be careful about some of these allegations” because Piers Morgan has “absolutely denied” knowing about the illegal conduct. Pressed by one of his guests if that was “an official company denial,” Kurtz said he’d be happy to speak with Morgan about it.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Think Progress, July 17, 2011

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Journalists, Media, Press, Pundits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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