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News of the Screws: finally screwed!

July 10, 2011

Harold Wilson said “a week is a long time in politics”. How much more in media! This week has seen the shaking of the world’s biggest and most powerful media organisation, Robert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the downfall of the UK biggest selling Sunday newspaper, the News of the World.

What started off as a story about hacking into the phones of a few celebrities and politicians, has extended to the hacking into the voicemails of a murdered schoolchild, the families of the victims of 7/7 and also the families of army officers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only that it turns out that policemen were being bribed and paid for information in the quest for that all-important scoop. The amount of dirt being dug up on News International proved too much for the British public and boycotts of the paper by consumers and advertisers began to be mooted. One by one, key advertisers such as Sainsburys, Mitsubishi, Ford began to pull their advertising slots, proving that if you want to hurt a business, go for the money! Forget writing letters and going on protest marches, hit the money then sit back and watch the fallout. And sure enough it was announced ‘with regret’ that News of the World was to killed off as ungraciously as it lived.

I’ve always thought that what goes around comes around, and that a newspaper which once prided itself on investigative journalism, should now find itself the subject of an investigation into its unethical and illegal practices just goes to prove the point.  The NOtW has always claimed to be the voice of Britain (or at least a select few of the people it considered British), publishing its moral outrages alongside salacious tales of sex and gossip. Investigative journalism by the NOtW standards is, cheap, nasty and astonishingly ruthless.  News International the publisher of NOtW may try to place blame on a few rogue employees, no longer in their employ, namely one Andy Coulson, former editor and No. 10 comms director, but I think that this is just endemic of the working culture there and a whole lot of people including New International chief exec Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs knew exactly what was going on, no matter how much they try to deny or cover up.

Of course the big question out of all this is who survives? So far, Rebekah Brooks is hanging onto her job (just!), whilst mumbling assurances that she will try to find jobs for the now redundant NOtW staff.  Whether they will want to work for her or News International again, is another story. I would have thought not, but in some cases, there may not be a choice.  Afterall, which, ‘respected’ newspaper trying to distance itself from this mess would want to know?  Furthermore, there is that distance for a reason. Let’s not think that for one second that other newspapers, the Daily Mail for one, have not been party to this type of behaviour one way or another.

Andy Coulson, it would appear has learned to ‘sing’ loud and proud, having presented himself to the police to face questioning about corruption and bribery. His comment to the press on leaving the station was telling: ‘There’s a lot more I’d like to tell you, but I can’t’.

I also think that now that Rupert Murdoch has flown into the UK to assess the damage, it is possible that further down the line, young James Murdoch, who has a very disconcerting way of not blinking very much when speaking (surely a sign that he’s telling lies??), maybe be re-assigned elsewhere in the murkiness of the News Corp empire, especially if this BSkyB deal does not go through.

What about the rest, David Cameron, good friends with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson’s former boss, the Met, countless others? I watch on with interest and anticipation.

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