Rage Against The Machine

Submitted By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Has the Emperor of Gotcha' Been Got?

Britain’s largest weekly tabloid, News of the World,  closes today, but not from lack of advertisers or readers. Instead, the Rupert Murdoch led tabloid succumbed to its own excesses amid shocking allegations of  interceptions of cellphone voice mails of the families of a murdered 13-year-old girl, servicemen and women slain in Afghanistan, and victims of  the 2005 London terrorist bombings.  Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who worked for News of the World,  is accused of the electronic hacking.

One of the victims, Graham Foulkes, whose son, David, died in the 2005 London attack, said “Janet and I were obviously having very intimate personal phone calls with friends and family. To think that when you’re at the lowest time in life that somebody, for the sake of a cheap story, is maybe listening to you, it’s just beyond words.”

The outrage from the British public has been complete and has political overtones.  Perhaps not too surprisingly, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has been almost alone in not calling for the paper’s editor, Rebekah Brooks, to resign. Murdoch’s News International syndicate was a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of Cameron in last year’s British parliamentary elections. The cozy relationship between Brooks and the PM resulted in Cameron spending the Christmas holiday with Brooks and her family.

Criticism for the PM’s reluctance is growing and Cameron has moved to call for a complete investigation. Cameron is also dealing with the fact that his Director of Communications, Andy Coulson, is a former editor of NOW. Coulson  resigned in January citing another  scandal as a “distraction,” but the British public is all too aware that Coulson, while editor, was accused of  paying police tens of thousands of pounds from NOW funds.

James Murdoch, son of the undisputed guru of sensationalist journalism, said the scandal will result in punishments for the newspaper’s culpable employees. “Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.” He pledged that “those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences.” NOW has published for 168 years and is wildly profitable. The closing has real effects on the Murdoch  Empire and is the most serious challenge to the what some regard as the voice of conservatism on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. Murdoch’s Fox News is a vocal backer of conservative candidates in the U.S. as well, and has faced its own share of criticism in that enterprise.

As for Murdoch, Sr., he seems to realize the gravamen of the situation deciding to fly to London and axe the paper in an attempt to stem the wave of criticism. The mogul may be the victim of his own doing as well. Many newspaper scandals in the past have been ameliorated by the presence of strong and independent boards of directors who act immediately to discharge the offending editors and restore the paper’s image. Not so with Murdoch’s companies, whose boards show a disturbing lack of resistance to Murdoch’s will. Simon Duke, a financial writer for the UK’s “This is Your Money” website puts it this way, “All too often, Murdoch Sr has been able to bend the board to his will with embarrassing ease. The directors all appear to rub along very smoothly; so much so that the 80-year-old has been able to rail-road through a series of deals that, to the outside world, look a lot like pandering to the whim of the chief executive.”

Is this a “Rosebud” moment for the all-powerful tabloid mogul? Only time will tell, but what is beyond doubt is that the drive for sensationalism has shaken to the foundation the once unassailable House of Murdoch.

Sources: This Is Your Money;  Washington Post

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

146 thoughts on “Rage Against The Machine”

  1. Elaine,

    As I said elsewhere today anyone who thinks Bloomberg is a better Mayor than Giuliani is fooling themselves and Giuliani was as corrupt a Mayor as you get.

  2. NYC Schools Approve $2.7 Million Deal with Murdoch-Linked Firm to Track Student Performance
    Democracy Now
    July 19, 2011

    The New York City-based group Class Size Matters has just launched a petition calling on New York officials to reject a no-bid contract that would give the company Wireless Generation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, access to the personal data of schoolchildren. The deal was awarded shortly after the former head of New York City schools, Joel Klein, joined News Corp.’s board. Klein attended the British parliamentary hearing with Murdoch on the phone-hacking scandal today in London. We speak to Leonie Haimson, a New York public school parent and executive director of Class Size Matters.

  3. Rupert Murdoch: I do not accept responsibility for wrongdoing at News of the World
    The Telegraph

    He told a committee of MPs investigating phone hacking: “I do not accept ultimate responsibility. I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and they people they trusted.

    He earlier said he was appalled when he heard that reporters had hacked into the voicemails of missing teenager Milly Dowler.

    A contrite Mr Murdoch today appeared before MPs and declared: “This is the most humble day of my life”.

  4. NoW whistle-blower Sean Hoare found dead in Watford
    A former News of the World journalist who made phone-hacking allegations against the paper has been found dead
    BBC, 7/18/2011

    Sean Hoare had told the New York Times the practice was far more extensive than the paper acknowledged when police first investigated hacking claims.

    Hertfordshire Police said the body of a man was found at a property in Langley Road, Watford, on Monday morning.

    A police spokesman said the death was currently being treated as unexplained, but was not thought to be suspicious.

    The spokesman said: “At 10.40am today [Monday] police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street.

    “Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.

    “The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.”

    Mr Hoare had told the BBC’s Panorama that phone hacking was “endemic” at the News of the World (NoW).

    He also said the then NoW editor Andy Coulson had asked him to hack phones – something Mr Coulson has denied.

  5. Police: Phone-hacking whistleblower found dead
    By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD – Associated Press,JILL LAWLESS – Associated Press | AP

    LONDON (AP) — Police say Sean Hoare, the whistleblower reporter who alleged widespread hacking at the News of the World, has been found dead.

    Police said Hoare’s death at his home in England was not considered to be suspicious, according to Britain’s Press Association news agency.

    Hoare was quoted by The New York Times as saying that phone-hacking was widely used and even encouraged at the News of the World tabloid under then-editor Andy Coulson.

    Coulson — who most recently served as Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief, was arrested as part of the widening investigation into phone hacking and police corruption.

  6. TPMMuckraker
    Scotland Yard Chief Resigns Amid Phone Hacking Scandal
    Jillian Rayfield | July 17, 2011

    London’a police commissioner resigned his post on Sunday, just a few hours after a former executive for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was arrested in connection with the News Of The World phone hacking scandal.

    Sir Paul Stephenson, chief of the Metropolitan Police Force, also known as Scotland Yard, announced his resignation in a press conference and explained that the media coverage of the scandal “not only provide[s] excessive distraction both for myself and colleagues, but [is] likely to continue for some time.”

    Stephenson and the police services have been in the spotlight in the wake of allegations that officers accepted bribes from reporters for Murdoch’s News Of The World tabloid — reporters who have been accused of hacking into the phone records of murder and terrorism victims, celebrities, and public officials. Scotland Yard has also been criticized for botching the initial investigation into News Of The World phone hacking in 2006. Two people were convicted then, but recent revelations suggest the scandal was far more sprawling then the initial investigation found.

  7. CNN Ignores Piers Morgan’s Connection To News Corp. Scandal
    By Alex Seitz-Wald on Jul 17, 2011
    Think Progress

    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 times over 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.”

  8. Rebekah Brooks has been arrested. The Guardian has the story. This clip is from The Guardian, but other news outlets are picking up the story as well:

    Rebekah Brooks has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World and allegations that police officers were bribed to leak sensitive information The Metropolitan police said a 43-year-old woman was arrested at noon on Sunday…


    The BBC is now running the story:


  9. “Free and open press” indeed. Look for open and honest reporting about the scandal on Fox News Channel.


  10. Thanks, Elaine. Here’s more news:

    “Rupert Murdoch has taken out full-page advertisements in several newspapers on Saturday, using the space to say: “We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.”

    The printed apology expresses regret for not acting faster “to sort things out”.

    “I realise that simply apologising is not enough. Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.”


  11. Revealed: David Cameron’s 26 meetings in 15 months with Rupert Murdoch’s News International chiefs
    By Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris
    Belfast Telegraph
    Saturday, 16 July 2011

    The scale of private links between David Cameron and News International was exposed for the first time last night, with the Prime Minister shown to have met Rupert Murdoch’s executives on no fewer than 26 occasions in just over a year since he entered Downing Street.

    Rebekah Brooks, who was forced to resign yesterday as chief executive of Mr Murdoch’s Wapping titles over the escalating phone-hacking scandal, is the only person Mr Cameron has invited twice to Chequers, a privilege not extended even to the most senior members of his Cabinet.

    James Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman in Europe and the man responsible for pushing through the BSkyB bid, was a guest at the Prime Minister’s official country residence eight months ago. And the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson – who was arrested this week on suspicion of bribing police officers and of phone hacking – was invited by Mr Cameron to spend a private weekend at Chequers as recently as March.

  12. The Journal Becomes Fox-ified
    Published: July 15, 2011

    It’s official. The Wall Street Journal has been Fox-ified.

    It took Rupert Murdoch only three and a half years to get there, starting with the moment he acquired the paper from the dysfunctional Bancroft family in December 2007, a purchase that was completed after he vowed to protect The Journal’s editorial integrity and agreed to a (toothless) board that was supposed to make sure he kept that promise.

    Fat chance of that. Within five months, Murdoch had fired the editor and installed his close friend Robert Thomson, fresh from a stint Fox-ifying The Times of London. The new publisher was Leslie Hinton, former boss of the division that published Murdoch’s British newspapers, including The News of the World. (He resigned on Friday.) Soon came the changes, swift and sure: shorter articles, less depth, an increased emphasis on politics and, weirdly, sometimes surprisingly unsophisticated coverage of business.

    Along with the transformation of a great paper into a mediocre one came a change that was both more subtle and more insidious. The political articles grew more and more slanted toward the Republican party line. The Journal sometimes took to using the word “Democrat” as an adjective instead of a noun, a usage favored by the right wing. In her book, “War at The Wall Street Journal,” Sarah Ellison recounts how editors inserted the phrase “the Obama assault on business” in an article about corporate taxes. The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification.

    The other half is that Murdoch’s media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, The Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too.

    As a business story, the News of the World scandal isn’t just about phone hacking and police bribery. It is about Murdoch’s media empire, the News Corporation, being at risk — along with his family’s once unshakable hold on it. The old Wall Street Journal would have been leading the pack in pursuit of that story.

    Now? At first, The Journal ignored the scandal, even though, as the Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff pointed out in Adweek, it was front-page news all across Britain. Then, when the scandal was no longer avoidable, The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way. Blogging for Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman, the media critic, described The Journal’s coverage as “obviously hamstrung, and far, far below the paper’s true capacity.”

    On Friday, however, the coverage went all the way to craven. The paper published an interview with Murdoch that might as well have been dictated by the News Corporation public relations department. He was going to testify before Parliament next week, he told the Journal reporter, because “it’s important to absolutely establish our integrity.” Some of the accusations made in Parliament were “total lies.” The News Corporation had handled the scandal “extremely well in every way possible.” So had his son James, a top company executive. “When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right,” he said. He was “getting annoyed” by the scandal. And “tired.” And so on.

  13. Can’t take the Texas heat. This is the worst year I remember. I have three weeks until I go to Colorado. I have my miles for Paris but have been thinking about going to Ireland instead. I have located the family pub in County Kerry.

  14. SWM,

    When “WE” Leaving…..Sunday the posted temp at present it to be 107….if the beat keeps going it will be about 110….as the actual had exceeded the projected lately….

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