Our Reporter Made His Excuses And Left…

18 07 2011

The beginning of the end?

The twenty-first century is a fast paced existence.

We are constantly assaulted by images and messages from an ever-expanding media network as we go about our daily lives, almost unaware of the amount of information that is being presented. We believe that we have almost unlimited choice, that we are the ones in control of what we choose to view, read or download.

This could not be further from the truth.

We have become so used to the mass media that we have not noticed that it is the controlling entity and as such it chooses what we learn and what we view.

The media decides, we listen.

Mass media exists to inform, to educate, to criticise, to stage public debate and ultimately to help people form opinions and reach decisions. Although it can be considered as an entertainment medium, it should have a sense of responsibility and above all it should be objective and to provide an element of balance between fact and opinion.

Which is my clumsy way of approaching the scandal that has enveloped Rupert Murdoch and his media empire in the last ten days.

The News of the World was a Sunday tabloid that had developed over the years from a newspaper with a reputation for some investigative journalism to one that glorified the sleazy nature of the world around us, in particular the personal appetites of the celebrity culture that seem to be of interest to so many people. It had a readership of over 4 million people and most of us in the UK would at least glance at a copy every Sunday. It was part of the weekend, an easy read that had an excellent sports section and for teenage boys there was always the possibility of some exposed flesh.

It had been under Murdoch’s control (although not directly, he allocated people to run the paper) since 1969.

As we know, Rupert is the aging head of a  multinational media conglomerate that has interests in television (both terrestrial and satellite), film, newspapers and publishing, radio and even sports teams. An Australian Born American Citizen, he has expanded the business to such an extent that it is hard to discover what they are not involved in as they seem to have fingers in every pie on a worldwide basis. Newscorp also owns Sky Satellite Broadcasting, Fox Television which includes the Fox News channel, Twentieth Century Fox (movie studio), and numerous interests in countries across the globe. Murdoch himself is quoted as saying that “satellite broadcasting makes it possible for information-hungry residents of many closed societies to bypass state-controlled television.”

Or even for information-hungry journalists to use whatever means necessary to get the scoop that will sell newspapers/online news sources/television advertising space.

On the 10th July, 2011, following continuing revelations that NOTW journalists had “hacked” into the mobile phones of not only celebrities and the Royal Family but the families of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, those who had lost loved ones in suspicious circumstances and a murdered teenager called Millie Dowler- whose voicemail had been accessed while she was still missing, listened to and then had messages deleted from to allow for more space – , the paper appeared on the news-stands for the last time.

The fallout from this scandal has claimed the jobs of journalists, policemen, high-ranking editorial staff and has led to the arrest of former Murdoch employees. There have been questions asked of the UK Prime Minister and it is estimated that 7,000 people are victims of these phone hacks. To the larger world, it appears that the fall from grace of the NOTW has happened in an instant.

This is not the case.

Phone hacking at this part of Murdoch’s Evil Empire has been commonplace for years. In 2006, reporters used private investigators to get the information they wanted, in 2007 the papers’ Royal Correspondent was jailed for four months but it wasn’t until this year that all of the sleazy chickens came home to roost with the public being treated to a growing list of what the depths the paper had sunk to give the readers the exclusives that they wanted to read about over their tea and toast on a Sunday morning.

The public has been outraged and (in some cases) rightly so. Even the politicians have realized that they need to address this issue.

But are we really surprised about this? Deep down, we all knew that for some parts of the media the methods are questionable at best and that the information we receive on a regular basis must have been received from a source somewhere. That’s how the news works, that’s how journalists get their stories.

Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate affair because of the investigative journalists that smelled a bad fish and were determined to get to the answers they needed. When Woodward and Bernstein ran the story, they had no idea that it would lead to the office of the most powerful man on the planet. And that was in the 1970s, using traditional methods and without the benefit of technology.

Today, everything is just a click away. The ability to invade another person’s privacy has increased and hacking into a voicemail account is the tip of the iceberg – Monica managed to do it in ‘Friends’ and even deleted messages!

What is more interesting is the speed with which Rupert managed to divest himself of a troublesome newspaper that brought unwanted attention to one person, namely himself.

Yes, there are others involved and yes, there are questions being asked of those responsible, but the demise of the News of the World has opened a can of worms that is sending shudders through the rest of Newscorp. The spotlight is now firmly on a man who has used his media empire to preach his own views and to gain political favor wherever he thought it might benefit him best.

Rupert Murdoch is a wily, old Fox. He has courted controversy before and rode the wave of public opinion without ever seeming to get his own feet wet. The News of the World will not bring his empire crashing down but it may be just the push needed to get people to start wondering whether everything that comes out of the mouths of the news anchors and in the written words in the print media are an accurate representation of the truth.

But maybe we can’t handle the truth, maybe we should just get back to letting the media tell us what and when to think?

I am sure that Rupert would prefer that.







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