Business/Finance

Hold Rupert Murdoch to account. But go no further.

A goodly number of Murdoch’s newspapers run at a loss.  This isn’t because he’s a bad businessman, it’s because of the industry.  His competitors are doing worse.

However, Murdoch loves newspapers and news.  Whatever else his failings, it’s rare to have a newspaper owner who actually loves the medium.  So even though these companies lose money for him (and, in revenue terms, are a tiny proportion of an empire that is mainly about entertainment and media) he keeps them alive and well financed.

Say that the clusterfuck over the infractions of a small number of his newspapers (assuming this goes beyond just News of the World) results in him divesting of news entirely.  Firstly, who’d buy them?  Secondly, what happens if this leads to the final destruction of actual daily newspapers? 

New regulations are coming that may completely emasculate investigative journalism.  Politicians may see a way to use public hostility to privacy infractions to protect their own.  Would Woodward and Bernstein have gone to jail for cracking Watergate through the use of intercepted tapes, and brought down the Washington Post for good measure?  We’d be left with a few very expensive weeklies featuring deep insight and analysis (and aimed mostly at the educated elite in business, science, literature, etc.) and the increasingly shrill voices of the twitterrama.

As George Brock says over on his blog: “Good journalism often operates near the edge of the rules; occasionally it breaks them. But no society – and certainly not one which has just learnt what happens when one newspaper abandons its decency altogether – is going to cut that journalism any slack at all if the newspaper can’t show that what it was doing has a public value. When the Daily Telegraph bought a (possibly stolen) disc with details of MPs expenses, when a Guardian journalist faked a signature, when the Sunday Times bought a key document in the Thalidomide scandal – these infractions can be justified by the overriding public interest in the disclosure thus made possible.”

Anyone want to consider a world where this is not allowed to exist?

While you’re enjoying the fall of a once-unerring titan of enterprise, certainly, hold him to account. But only to account.  Going further and behaving like a baying mob at a witch trial harms not only a great company, but also the world in which that company operates.  Which will harm you.

2 replies »

  1. >>However, Murdoch loves newspapers and news. Whatever else his failings, it’s rare to have a newspaper owner who actually loves the medium.

    Well, it’s rare these days. It used to be fairly common before the mass consolidation of the industry.

    >>Secondly, what happens if this leads to the final destruction of actual daily newspapers?

    I guess the easy quip is to say that if the choice is Murdoch papers or no papers, I’ll take no papers. But you’re assuming that no competition would rush into the vacuum created by the elimination of an oppressively huge player. That’s an odd perspective from a Libertarian.

    >>New regulations are coming that may completely emasculate investigative journalism. Politicians may see a way to use public hostility to privacy infractions to protect their own. Would Woodward and Bernstein have gone to jail for cracking Watergate through the use of intercepted tapes, and brought down the Washington Post for good measure? We’d be left with a few very expensive weeklies featuring deep insight and analysis (and aimed mostly at the educated elite in business, science, literature, etc.) and the increasingly shrill voices of the twitterrama.

    Well, obviously nobody benefits from outlawing journalism. But you’re doing us all a disservice by paralleling News Corp’s phone hacking, which is all about generating bread-and-circuses scandal, and the hard investigative work of real journalists after a corrupt government.

    Apples to apples, please?

    >>As George Brock says over on his blog: “Good journalism often operates near the edge of the rules; occasionally it breaks them. But no society – and certainly not one which has just learnt what happens when one newspaper abandons its decency altogether – is going to cut that journalism any slack at all if the newspaper can’t show that what it was doing has a public value. When the Daily Telegraph bought a (possibly stolen) disc with details of MPs expenses, when a Guardian journalist faked a signature, when the Sunday Times bought a key document in the Thalidomide scandal – these infractions can be justified by the overriding public interest in the disclosure thus made possible.”

    Thank you, but “good journalism” has what, exactly, to do with hacking a dead girl’s phone or, if the breaking rumor over here proves to be true, hacking the phone of goddamned Jude Law?

  2. bwahaha! I didn’t think Bonseparkle’s post could be topped for lulz, but this does it.

    …oh, wait, really?

    Can we hold him to account for almost single-handedly destroying American news? His cable outfit here is openly run as a wing of the Republican Party, broadcasting straight propaganda.

    Now we find out that his underlings have been running illegal wiretapping schemes, not to break important news that the world deserves to hear, but to scandal monger and likely bribe politicians. Yeah, we’d sure be losing a gem if Murdoch goes down. Please.

    He doesn’t give a shit about anything but money.

    …oh, wait, i see. The apologia makes sense now.

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