The Week (and Murdoch) Unplugged
Last week marked the most intense media gazing by the media and spectators alike in recent memory as News Corporation and its Chief Executive Officer, Rupert Murdoch, suffered incredible and sometimes almost deadly blows stemming from the phone-hacking scandal that started with allegations at the News of the World (now closed) and by Sunday night had progressed to high-level departures and arrests from the Murdoch camp and charges of police bribes. Some of major events to date:
- Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton resigned;
- News International CEO Rebekah Brooks resigned and is arrested;
- Murdoch apologizes to the family of the murdered 13-year-old girl whose phone was allegedly hacked;
- Murdoch places apologies in UK newspapers on Saturday;
- Former aid to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson arrested;
- News Corp. withdraws bid to remaining stake in BSkyB;
- Murdoch and son James to testify in special parliamentary hearings this week;
- And more sure to come.
So why does this matter besides the obvious questions of ethics? In short, news-gathering tactics will surely change in the UK, and closer to home, Murdoch and his hand-picked team operate the most influential financial-industry publication in the US for investors and most of our clients. It remains to be seen what changes will take place at The Wall Street Journal as a result of probable UK political pressure on media operations. Throughout this scandal, The Wall Street Journal was perhaps more media grazing on the topic, barely covering news as it broke. (Interesting Joe Nocera piece on Saturday in The New York Times called, “The Journal Becomes Fox-ified” on this very observation and the shame of the Journal’s Murdoch interview on Friday.) Changes, for sure, to come in the US as well, and probably longer term, a switch in bylines amid forced and voluntary departures.
It is also interesting to note who was covering and talking about the scandal. According to Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Murdoch scandal accounted for 53 percent of links on Twitter last week but only 6 percent of mainstream coverage. Twitter again appears to be the media’s media.