Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The News of the World has gone? You are joking.

Hands up, hands up, who'd like to hear another opinion on the disbandment of the News of the World? No one?? Well you can all get stuffed, because here it comes.

Quick recap. As our friends across the pond celebrated their independence, the Guardian published a story that would rock British journalism at it's core - that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler. By the same time a week later, Britain's biggest selling Sunday newspaper had printed it's last copy; 168 years after it's first.

I was amazed at the speed this had happened. Admittedly the Guardian had been investigating the 'phone hacking' story for many years and this wasn't an overnight revelation. As far back as 2005, the News of the World had been accused of hacking. But the time period between the last nail in the coffin and it being six feet under was remarkably short.

Everyone was on board the movement. When the paper was accused of hacking the phones of royals and celebrities, people waved it past as immoral but 'hey, they could deal with it right?' Their lives are constantly under the media limelight so what do they expect?' When it became murder victims, or families of dead soldiers killed in the Middle East, or those who lost their lives in the London bombings, the public took note and the backlash was quick and brutal.

Rupert Murdoch has been described as the 'Ultimate Media Mogul' and named three times in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People - most recently in 2010. But it was clear that even he was going to struggle to fight this corner. The story headlined every newspaper and TV news bulletin all week. Phone hacking victim Hugh Grant appeared on Question Time, damning the newspaper and News International as a whole. Steve Coogan performed a similar act on Newsnight, going toe to toe with ex-News of the World journalist Paul McMullan - a man that could not look any more like a seedy journalist if he tried.

And so, on the 10th July 2011 the last News of the World was printed, with the "heart-wrenching" headline 'Thank you and Goodbye' and packed full of so much self-righteous, blow your own trumpet, I am a scapegoat journalism that I nearly threw up on Kelly Brook's milky puddings.

Hooray! We all shouted (well the majority anyway) 1-0 to democracy and justice. Right? Well, not entirely.

The Murdoch Empire has been in the game of controversial media for far too long to let this affect it. I don't think it will be much longer before we see the 'Sun on Sunday' on the shelves. In fact News International has already bought the online domain. The proposed takeover of BSkyB may prove a little more tricky now, but it's only a matter of time. If Murdoch agrees not to takeover Sky News, then Parliament cannot stand in his way anyhow. But Mr Murdoch has not earned his fearsome reputation as a 'Media Mogul' by rolling over that easily. Oh no, he won't stop until he's got the lot.

There is only one chink I have seen in the armour of this ruthless leader however. His loyalty. All of his moves in the aftermath of the phone hacking scandal were logical. Except the loyalty he showed to Rebekah Brooks by not slinging her out into the wilderness. Not from a moral point of view (I would never accuse him of that), but from a business perspective. As editor, she has reduced the biggest selling British Sunday paper to a worthless memory and affected the price of shares for it's parent company News International, perhaps irreparably. Now if that's not bad business I don't know what is. OK, she hasn't been directly connected to the phone hacking... yet, but she was the boss; for destroying a business surely she takes the wrap?

In all this controversy however, there should be applause for the dedicated and persistent investigative journalism by the Guardian. It was excellent and served as a nice contrast of good journalism, when compared to the journalists is was 'outting' as crooks. Something tells me this won't be the end of the phone hacking saga. The Times has joined the group and before long I think media groups away from News International will be exposed too.

As for the Murdoch Empire, it remains to be seen whether these cracks in the foundations will eventually bring down the castle - but somehow, I doubt it.

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