First things first. This is not a defense of Rupert Murdoch and the evil empire. I think the word was coined on The Daily Show for what I feel on the whole phone-hacking scandal: schadenfreudegasm.
But in keeping with the themes around here, I can’t help point out the following:
1. I cannot believe that these practices of skulduggery are limited to just the mad Aussie’s firms. Presumably, any journalist who knows of these practices at their respective institutions will be coming forward (ed. note: hahahahaha… please stop with the jokes). More likely, there will need to be laws put into place to prevent media organizations from engaging in these practices. Cue the outrage from journalists, reporters and pundits.
So far, I’m on the “Couldn’t care less about freedom of press”-train. For starters, we now live in a world where institutions, private groups, corporations, organizations and even private individuals, who do not fall under the umbrella of “government” or “public sector,” have the technological means, ability and money to invade privacy rights, compromise property rights and undermine individual rights of life and liberty. What sins in the past had been the exclusive province of governments and political bodies, i.e. the possibility and probability of reducing fundamental rights, are now theoretically within the reaches of any cantankerous busybody with an internet connection.
We’re not in Kansas anymore, and, wherever we are, we better figure out what the rules in this strange land are.
2. Isn’t it a rule that shareholders, legal departments and management do not call the shots in the press room, do not play editors and do not run the news rooms? Now I’m talking to you Mr. Pundit, who says News Corp. is to blame because they should have known, or made efforts to know, that their subsidiaries were using less-than-reputable sources. Either (i) management takes an active interest in the news decisions being made and must be held responsible or (ii) the reporters and editors are solely in charge, with shareholders have a fiduciary trust with the teams they hire and nothing more. Which do you prefer, Mr. Pundit? Can’t have it both ways now can you?
I believe its this disconnect that goes to the heart of why you can’t say I am defending Murdoch. Murdoch seems to be clearly taking an active interest in the running of his newspapers to the point of micro-managing them. Hence he can and should be held responsible under (i). Option (ii) clearly doesn’t seem to have been the case.
For more, read David Carr’s excellent piece. I like his last line: “When you throw money onto a burning fire, it becomes fuel and nothing more.”