The News Corp Scandal and Why it Matters

Trust in Media?

It may be mostly happening in the United Kingdom, but is resonating across the media world, and is impacting how the public view journalists and the companies which own the outlets. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, the demise of News of the World after 168 years of publication due to a long running phone hacking scandal has reached new levels with the resignations, and now arrest – with 12 hours of police questioning of now former editor Rebekah Brooks -, the UK Metropolitan Police Chief Paul Stephenson and Les Hinton, News Corp’s titular CEO in the United States.

News of the World Front Page

News of the World Front Page

The entire scandal may seem to some, including myself, as deserved schadenfreude – for an aside, I was involved in public relations and media in Europe for many years and always wondered at the power of all tabloids compared to more ‘substantial’ press, also the PR execs who fawned and favoured journalists and editors from News Corps publications, ‘give the Guardian editor a cupcake, while champagne is popped over foie gras for the Murdoch interns’

This is also a period when all media is in the news itself over business models and survivability. Newspapers, magazines especially are losing advertising revenue, restricting access behind paywalls to only those who value their content enough to fork over a monthly or per article fee, while some savvy journalists are finding a new, engaged, sometimes reverent audience, on their own through social media.

Why the News Corp Scandal Matters

The Murdoch empire covers Australia, North America and Europe { News Corp Holdings }. They are the preeminent conservative voice throughout much of the G8. As was in the UK, until there was a collective sigh of relief only last week from the UK Parliament and worldwide celebrities alike, the power of the Murdoch’s press outlets could, and did, make or break elections – and companies, and individuals, and films, and brand launches – too much power, with what we know now to be illegal practices with up to 4000 voice mail accounts being hacked in an effort to ‘get the story’.

In the US, it is Fox News most known as a Murdoch property, but News Corp also owns the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones. ( see the latest WSJ editorial – which, if you have a critical mind, will illustrate how that once regarded and heralded institution has sunk to yet another low ) – and read Jeff Jarvis with an insightful overview of Murdoch’s crisis and possible outcomes.

via Jeff Jarvis – BuzzMachine * In the U.S., the right-wing depends on Fox News and is surely getting nervous about its fate. It is becoming — if one can imagine this — even more of a laughingstock than it already was as it ignores or defends Murdoch in the scandal. I could imagine Roger Ailes assembling rich Republicans to engineer a leveraged buyout and keep it safe for them in time for the election. Then there could be no doubt of its role as a propaganda arm of the right.

The New York Post loses tens of millions a year and lives only to give Murdoch his toy and pulpit. Professional management cannot justify that. It will die or find its egotistical oligarch (its Conrad Black or Robert Maxwell … I cannot imagine even the Murdoch heirs allowing their patriarch to hold onto it and eat into their fortune yet further).

The Wall Street Journal is in quite the pickle. Again, professional management will want to get rid of it because it is not a good business; its ROI, if any, is worse than The Simpson’s. But who would buy it? Recall that no one else but Murdoch would buy it for the price he offered, an overeager amount he soon had to write-down. Last week, I suggested that if Murdoch wants to rescue the last shred of his legacy, he should put the Journal into a trust, a la the Guardian and its Scott Trust. Past that, it’s hard to imagine its fate. Would Bloomberg or Reuters buy its financial data businesses? Is there a fire-sale buyer for the paper and its web site? They’d better hurry before it is ruined by delusional editorial such as this one defending Murdoch.

While we watch the News Corp meltdown in the UK, it will resonate across nations and continents, but more importantly what it highlights SHOULD make all journalists, editors and media owners suffer sleepless nights. That is not written lightly – I am a huge supporter of ‘good’ journalism, a high fiver to the majority who put ethical standards foremost (Kai Nagata‘s ‘manifesto or rant against Canadian media notwithstanding as the jury is still out). However, the public distrust of legacy media is a resonating, almost seismic, meme and will only become more established unless mainstream outlets get proactive – prove the trust.

And why prove the trust? Looking over the past year in Public Relations, the trend has been to call in more bloggers, social media ‘connections’ in fact placing mainstream media as a secondary resource. That is said as per recent, last 6 months, of working on small business, brand and political advertising campaigns where there has been a sea change in perspective – the ROI (Return on Investment) to push money towards advertising and information to legacy media is quickly losing ground. Our newspapers, TV and radio stations and weekly magazines have to prove they are worthy – dig deeper and do the local investigative journalism which many bloggers are taking as their own territory, and often for partisan reasons.

Losing Trust in Mainstream Media

Despite the fact it is mainstream, or legacy, media which is outing News Corp and the frankly sleazy tactics employed at News of the World (see Guardian UK for best coverage), there is no doubt the public perceives this as a far wider scandal which incorporates not only more publications; beyond voicemails and into hacking emails and social media accounts. That is pushing PR and marketing firms to a different, and frankly more cost effective, medium – welcome Google+

and if want more – Charlie Brooker actually makes sense this time in his Guardian Uk article

of course, the Twitter Stream, which may morph into a Google+ stream in the near future.

 



 

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