Friday, July 8, 2011

Murdoch gets a taste of his own medicine

It is a bad NEWS for both News of the World (NOW) and Rupert Murdoch.

But a mere regret is what comes from Murdoch who has a lot of explaining to do, sooner than later: "I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret."

He sends email to the staffers of NOW: “have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong - indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company." So the end of NOW came sudden. Email clarifies: Murdoch knew nothing about tapping fiasco, at least that is what is made to believe, so the buck stops at the staffers and journalists who tapped phones illegally to get the story going for NOW. “Murdoch sacrifices his toxic tabloid to save empire” is a great headline in one the leading newspapers that sums up the whole situation.

I am an investigative reporter. I can tell you I like to dig up dirt on. But that is not the only reason why I risk my life, sometimes, to get the facts out in public domain (to me always in public interest http://mihir-wordtothewise.blogspot.com/2011/06/sting-king.html).

There is an enormous pressure to do something different, “exclusive.” The reporters are obliged to do it at any cost, they are told: where there’s a will there’s a way. The tragedy for a reporter is that the whole media fraternity is preying on the same story, even a turn of face, shake of hands get scrutinised and reported. In this clutter how do you get more ‘exclusive’? So, either, you find a bigger sensation somewhere else that will make bigger news and you would be honoured for 'breaking' a story. Or else find new ways of getting more information in the same set of stories.

Dead don’t speak. Technology can make even dead speak. So, to get access to technology, which in turn will help access ‘exclusive’ information becomes a job requirement. Some do it effortlessly. They become great reporters. And all publications play on their information, bring out cover stories, nobody is bothered about the means adopted to procure the information as long as it sells, brings more TRPs or enhance circulation. Ethical question come into play when dubious means get exposed.


Cartoon by Steve Bell

Now the reporters are conveniently blamed for it and they will be put behind bars. But Murdoch cannot just get away sending a note: you did it, I didn't know, I am not happy, you all are fired. He is responsible for creating a work environment where the fending for ‘exclusive’ information becomes biggest job requirement, so much so that even the law of the land is not a consideration.

Since all have something to hide people like Murdoch become powerful because of their ability to prey for hidden, expose and transmit it to every household. He did very well in exposing others. But in the process, he created his own need to hide things; the list was growing all the time.
He is not doing so well when it is his turn to face the media and scrutiny. Pity! This may just provide the opportunity to so many disgruntled people waiting in the wings to wreck future prospects of his business, give body blow to his media empire that has a global spread.

Getting back to his statement he made to his NOW staffers, he says.. "have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong - indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company" and goes on write "..failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose”.

He acknowledges that he ‘failed’ in some respect. Who will pay the price of this failure? The staffers. The journalists. Murdoch’s drama will go on in days to come.
The NOW staff is shocked, they all stand fired. End of a paper that had the USP of "insatiable appetite for scandal” that became a cause of its “ undoing," as Sydney Morning Herald puts it. NOW's political editor, David Wooding, calls the move as a "bombshell", told BBC, the paper was "fantastic" and "decent, hard-working, distinguished journalists were all carrying the can for the sins of a previous regime." Clarifying that the current lot has nothing to do with the phone tapping scandal.

Like Murdock, the current staffers of NOW feign ignorance, and put the blame squarely on former editor Rebekah Brooks is seen as a strategic move to prevent heads rolling at the top of the empire. She will get no help from her political and corporate masters as they want to maintain safe distance with this phone tapping scandal. NOW’s former editor, Andy Coulson, now a key aid of British Prime Minister David Cameron, is already been arrested, with no help coming from Cameron. Some half a dozen journalists will be arrested or are in the process of being arrested. Many heads will roll.

It is being dubbed as the biggest ‘PR’ disaster of Murdoch’s career. Billions of money is to be made by PR agencies to turn tides in favour of Murdoch. The doctor gets the dose of his own medicine. Will he recover?

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