Thursday, July 7, 2011

Closing 'News of the World' The Worst Possible News

Rupert Murdoch does not deserve kudos for his decision to close the venerable 'News of the World' in response to the news that reporters there hacked into the cell phone of a missing girl and deleted messages from concerned family members. He deserves to be derided for a rash, self-serving decision that he no doubt hopes will save his ass and a big telecommunications deal he has coming up in the UK.

In my opinion closing the world's largest English language newspaper in response to the actions of a hand full of its employees is the wrong thing to do. But what does Murdoch care? He's never struck me as someone who cared much about doing the right thing unless he could profit from it.

The reporters responsible should be fired. The editors that approved the action, or even if they didn't approve it, were in charge of the reporters at the time, should be fired, and the publisher in charge at the time should be fired. Instead everyone who works there is now unemployed. That includes mail clerks, advertising reps, interns, photographers, reporters (who would never dream of doing such a thing), computer technicians, custodians, paginators, editors, assistant editors, features editors, the sports department; newspaper carriers, pressman and secretaries, and all the people who own shops that make a fairly decent living selling the News of the World, they are out of luck, too.
So are the people who sell them their office supplies, printer ink, equipment, light bulbs, fuel, paper and cleaning supplies.

Shuttering the News of the World is certainly one way to shut everyone up about whether or not tabloid journalists are going overboard. It shuts up the naysayers who claim the company will never change because now the company never can change. It's finished. After 150 years in business News of the World is closing its doors.
And not because Murdoch thinks it's the right thing to do, but because it is a painless way to deal with what had become a publicity nightmare. The News of the World contributes very little to his revenue stream. Most of his money comes from television and other digital media these days so it's hardly a sacrifice on his part.
Seems to me that closing News of the World is a matter of expediency, not honor.

When I heard of the scandal I was shocked and disgusted by the behavior of those involved and those who were in charge at the time. I spent more than a decade of my life working in newsrooms, with some of the finest newspaper people in the business. I know how a newsroom works, and I know no reporter would be paying out of pocket for the professional talents of some cell phone hacker. Someone else knew what was going on and everyone in the chain of command when those incidents happened should be held accountable and severely punished.
Everyone else, all those other people who did nothing but show up for work and do their jobs to the best of their ability, they do not deserve to be punished. And closing the newspaper serves no purpose whatsoever.  This type of scorched earth technique doesn't work in war time and it certainly doesn't work in a newsroom.

Shame on you, Rupert Murdoch and shame on any of you who think closing News of the World is the right thing to do. Because it isn't.

From its formation in 1843 the paper, which initially cost just three pence, made millions of pounds for a succession of owners by offering up a regular diet of sex and celebrity news that helped it capture a significant chunk of the mass market.
And until the paper became infamous for the behavior of its own journalists, News of the World was known for its investigations, exposure of wrongdoing and campaigning. Just months ago it won a journalism industry award for its exclusive story about alleged match fixing by Pakistani international cricketers.
One veteran journalist, the Guardian's assistant editor Michael White, said the paper had a "Jekyll and Hyde" nature. The paper was responsible for "good stuff like the Pakistan cricket corruption story and some awful stuff that we now know about," he told CNN.
He added that journalists at the paper were "spitting blood that (the paper's owner) Rupert Murdoch had not closed (its chief executive and former editor) Rebekah Brooks rather than their beloved newspaper."
"These are difficult times for our industry. It's horrible to think of News of the World closing, even though it sometimes drives me mad."

Click here to read the CNN story on the closing.

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