I am not a journalist. It pains me every time someone confuses opinion columns with news articles. Reporters and journalists report the facts — columnists like me twist the facts to fit our worldview.
Rupert Murdoch is also not a journalist. He is a businessman who happens to own major newspapers and TV stations in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. His News Corp., however, has a history of twisting facts and has not shown the proper ethics a media organization should.
“He has more power than any other private citizen in the United States,” media commentator Michael Wolff told CNN. In the U.S., Murdoch owns The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fox News and Harper Collins.
Murdoch controls 37 percent of Britain’s national newspapers. The Sun alone averages 6 to 7 million readers, according to CNN. It is worse in Australia, where Murdoch owns 70 percent of newspapers, including the only national daily newspaper.
Teddy Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave regarding this international monopoly.
A man with so much power and control of the means by which people stay informed should work hard to ensure the utmost objectivity of his media outlets. The media is supposed to keep the public informed and act as a watchdog on government, and to do so in a way that does not compromise the ethics of reporters. Murdoch’s media empire has not shown these virtues, often acting in the opposite manner.
Hopefully you remember the scandal from this past summer about News of the World, a British tabloid that Murdoch had to shut down. News of the World was caught hacking into people’s phones to gain access to their calls, messages, etc., and the tabloid was linked to police corruption.
Several arrests and resignations later, Murdoch remains standing, but is now under strict scrutiny. He testified again last week, finally admitting there was a cover-up of the phone hacking scandal, but he denied it came from the upper echelons of News Corp.
The Guardian reports Murdoch was also asked about his close relationships with past prime ministers, going all the way back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. He staunchly denied any quid pro quo favors made between him and any prime ministers, but admitted Thatcher’s decision to streamline his takeover of the Sun and Sunday Times were beneficial for his company.
He also admitted he would have lunch with Tony Blair “two or three times a year,” according to the Guardian. The Sun switched from supporting the Conservative Party to Blair’s Labour Party just prior to Blair becoming prime minister, but Murdoch denied any deals were made.
This scrutiny exists not just in the U.K., but in Australia and America, too. An Australian inquiry into media standards is focusing on Murdoch and the FBI are looking into alleged phone hacking on U.S. soil.
It is all falling apart for Murdoch, and it is about time.
He clearly knows how to take sides in politics, whether it is switching back-and-forth in Britain or Fox News’ staunch conservative support here at home. Whether that reflects his genuine political feelings or just savvy business-sense, it makes no difference. Murdoch and News Corp. are a prime example of what is wrong with modern media.
On one end, you have the media moguls like Murdoch, the Redstone family of Viacom and Jeff Immelt of General Electric. They control the majority of mainstream media, but are more interested in profits than news. Hence an emphasis on tabloid reporting that leads to phone hacking.
On the other end, you have every person out there with a camera phone and blog who think they are a journalist. You are not. Take it from me, someone who only dances around the fringes of journalism.
Journalism is torn between commercial enterprise run amok and amateurs who do not know what they are doing. It is a sad day when media analysts like Shanto Iyengar and others think we should return to the 18th and 19th century model of newspapers being paid extensions of political parties. At least that way we would know what biases they would have, and then they would be less concerned with profit since funding would be assured — from the same politicians they are supposed to cross-examine.
If that is the best solution, then so be it. As long as we get rid of the unethical, deceitful practices of News Corp. that twists, distorts and steals facts to fit their business model. A model that flows from the top-down.
Murdoch can deny all claims that he is biased or breaking the law, but the actions of his subordinates reflect poorly on the upper management’s decision-making.