MediaFile

The future of journalism in the UK

By Mark Thompson
The opinions discussed are his own.

In the UK we are going through an unprecedented crisis in journalism, a crisis with the boundaries and techniques of investigative journalism at its heart.

We don’t yet know what will emerge from this crisis and from Lord Leveson’s Inquiry, but any recommendations about new laws or regulation will be studied with interest by Governments around the world.

Before the phone-hacking scandal, conventional wisdom suggested that traditional investigative journalism faced two threats:  the first economic, the second related to the impact of the internet and new forms of journalism and disclosure it has enabled.

The economic one is so familiar I won’t dwell on it for long.  It is that – in common with other forms of quality journalism – the deteriorating business models for newspapers, in the developed world at least, may not be able to support the cost of mounting often expensive and protracted investigations.

The commercial fundamentals may not be quite so challenging in the global broadcast arena, but here too pessimists would point to the pressure on commissioners and schedulers to focus on those genres which bring in the largest number of viewers and commercial impacts: here too, they would argue, investigative journalism is under threat.

What Rupert did

By John Lloyd
The views expressed are his own.

The crisis at the News of the World broke in July 2011. It had been gathering for five years, since the first public intimations surfaced in 2006 of a culture of using private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of those the newspaper wished to investigate. Two ‘rotten apples’ were thrown out by News International, the parent company: these were Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by a number of papers to find out secrets of the objects of their investigations; and Clive Goodman, the News of the World (NotW ) reporter who covered the royal family and whose stories had used material gleaned by Mulcaire from interceptions of the royal princes’ phones. The rest of the barrel, the paper and the company said, was unblemished: as evidence of purity of soul, the then editor, Andy Coulson, resigned, disavowing all knowledge of the hacking but shouldering responsibility as the one on whose watch this had happened. A few months later, he was employed as director of communications by David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and of the opposition; when Cameron moved, in May 2010, into Number 10 as prime minister, Coulson retained his post and moved with him. It was reported that several of those who met Cameron at this time warned him against employing Coulson. The latter’s claim, that he had not asked a senior reporter about the source of stories which would be among the most important published in any given week, astonished those who had any acquaintance with journalism. However, Cameron said he accepted his word, that Coulson deserved a ‘second chance’ and that he had skills which the leader of the opposition needed.

From these quite modest beginnings grew a scandal whose revelations have laid bare journalistic practices which were not confined to phone hacking, nor to the NotW, and involved issues even more serious: the assumption by leading journalists working for the most widely read section of the British press that the private lives of anyone in whom they wished to take an interest should be open to their gaze and use; increasing subordination of the political class to tabloid pressure; and the possible (as yet unproven) corruption of officers of the Metropolitan Police.

This is written as the News International scandal, and others associated with it, roll on. The issue is sufficiently mature, however, for there to have appeared a substantial minority of voices which dissent from the chorus of condemnation which has attended these revelations, and assert that, even if the scandal is shocking, it has been grossly overblown – as a Wall Street Journal editorial had it, overblown because of left-wing hostility to right-wing newspapers. These voices point out that more important matters face the world; and that, even if Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation (whose UK subsidiary News International is, and which also owns Dow Jones, parent company of the Wall Street Journal) presided over an organization in which such things were winked at, he has also been a force for good in the newspaper trade. He smashed the anarchic Fleet Street print unions which were a barrier to development and growth, invested mightily in an industry from which others were and still are exiting, kept alive (among other titles) The Times at a large loss, provided millions of readers in three Anglophone countries – Australia, the UK and to a lesser extent the USA – with newspapers which they freely and often chose to buy, and ran an efficient and entrepreneurial company. More, as Ros Wynne-Jones argued in the Independent, at times his tabloids did revelatory and campaigning journalism on issues that mattered to a working-class readership: ‘holiday rip-offs, the loan shark thugs, the tawdry parasitical underclass that preys on the poor and elderly’. One could add to her list an appetite for exposing racial extremists: the Sun vividly reported on leading members of the British National Party, which had sought to give a more moderate image of itself, giving Nazi salutes and glorying in racial hatred.

The real meaning of “hack”

By Adam Penenberg
The opinions expressed are his own. This piece originally appeared in Fast Company.

Over the years I’ve published tens of thousands of words on “hackers.” I wrote “Hacking Bhabha,” a story about the “hack” of an Indian atomic research station, when gangs of computer miscreants went wilding through its servers, and the 1998 takedown of the New York Times website, which, for me, resulted in the threat of a justice department subpoena.

I interviewed Kevin Mitnick while he was still in prison and sat at my computer one night as someone who called himself MagicFX replaced eBay’s home page with his own that said: ”Proof by MagicFX that you can’t always trust people… not even huge companies.”

from UK News:

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain's most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world's most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

In fact, it is how Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde saw the state of Britain 120 years ago.

Power corrupted the Murdoch empire’s journalism

By John Lloyd
The opinions expressed are his own.

There’s an old saying, which Scots still exchange with each other, usually humorously: “Aweel, ye ken noo” – well, you know now. It harks back to when Scots life was dominated by the stern Presbyterianism engrained into it by Calvin’s disciple, John Knox: when direct, personal accountability to God was at the center of the faith, and the Church of Scotland, the “Kirk,” policed the morals of society with enthusiastic rigor. “Well ye ken noo” was the generic cry of the godly to the un-godly, faced with the prospect of the fires of hell, having ignored the warnings of the faithful in a life of dissipation.

Well, we ken noo.

We are everyone, but above all we of the British journalistic persuasion. We learn every day a little more about the practices carried on in the name of journalism by some of our colleagues in News International — a trail of abuse that started with hacking the mobile phones of the royal princes, spread to celebrities, to politicians and their aides — and in the last two weeks to murder and terrorist victims and their families and to the sick child of a former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown — whose bank and tax records were, also invaded (News International has disputed Brown’s charges). We learn all this — and today will bring more — but we learn a large lesson as we do.

We learn that there is a difference between knowing, and “knowing.”

For example, we “knew” — or those of us interested in these things “knew” — that Saudi Arabia hated and feared Iran. We knew they did when a Wikileaks-leaked cable of April 2008 described a meeting between General David Petraeus, then the senior military commander in the Middle East, with King Abdullah — at which the King urged U.S. military action against Iran, while the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, spelled it out – “he told you to cut off the head of the snake.”

News of the World hacking scandal: UK’s Miliband speaks out

UK opposition leader Ed Miliband called on the British media to clean up its image and emphasized the need for a speedy public inquiry into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Watch clips of Miliband’s comments at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event below:

Miliband to British media: “Clean up your image”

Miliband calls for judge-led inquiry into phone-hacking scandal

Miliband wants media watchdog scrapped

Miliband calls for BSkyB referral

Miliband urges UK Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize

Follow our live coverage of the phone-hacking scandal below:

Is Murdoch free to destroy tabloid’s records?

Editor’s note:

After this post was published, News Corp indicated that it did not plan any liquidation of assets in connection with the shutdown of the News of the World newspaper.  In the absence of a liquidation, the scenario laid out by Mark Stephens does not apply.

By Alison Frankel
The views expressed are her own.

Here’s some News of the World news to spin the heads of American lawyers. According to British media law star Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent (whom The Times of London has dubbed “Mr Media”), Rupert Murdoch’s soon-to-be shuttered tabloid may not be obliged to retain documents that could be relevant to civil and criminal claims against the newspaper—even in cases that are already underway. That could mean that dozens of sports, media, and political celebrities who claim News of the World hacked into their telephone accounts won’t be able to find out exactly what the tabloid knew and how it got the information.

If News of the World is to be liquidated, Stephens told Reuters, it “is a stroke of genius—perhaps evil genius.”

News Corp beefs up lobbying team on Capitol Hill – wrong country?

RupertMurdoch DCNews Corp announced on Monday it is expanding its  Capitol Hill government affairs office by promoting veterans Bill Guidera and David Fares to senior vice president and adding two more execs in Kathy Ramsey and Kristopher Jones to the Washington team.

We’ve been assured by insiders there’s nothing afoot here but that it’s a recognition of Guidera and Fares’ work. Clearly, we’ll soon hear if there’s more to it in the near future.

Interestingly, if there’s one country where News Corp could do with better government relations right now it is not the US.  The company could probably do with some extra hands in the UK where News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch (pictured, left) is dealing with a number of touchy situations in terms of government relations particularly concerning his company’s bid to take full ownership of BSkyB, the British  satellite TV  provider.

from Commentaries:

Counter-Revolution?

FoxTVRupert Murdoch used News Corp's fiscal fourth quarter conference call on Wednesday to say he wants to be paid ANYTIME his news is read online. Perhaps he was just in a cranky mood, but most of the reporters listening to the call thinks he's going beyond what he's said many times before on the topic.

The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution, but it has not made the content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all news websites.

The Sun, 6 Aug 2009That's not just for newspapers and websites, but also for his TV news channels, like Fox, and by implication, Sky, when viewed online, Murdoch said.  However, when asked if he will be charging for celebrity photos from newspapers such as The Sun or News of The World, it was by no means clear he's figured out how to make visitors pay to view these other than by watching ads.