You could say that Murdoch is the modern–day William Randolph Hearst but that would probably be an insult to Hearst. Murdoch on Tuesday testified that he had no knowledge that employees – I hesitate to call them “reporters” – of his newspapers hacked into private phone accounts looking for anything titillating or salacious that would sell papers. In addition, it appears that those same employees were paying law enforcement and government officials for information in the form of bribes.
If Murdoch truly didn’t know it was happening then he’s a lousy publisher for not bothering to question his editors about where and how they were getting their information. And I suspect by the time this is over we will find that the same practices were being employed on this side of the pond by Murdoch’s so–called news organizations.
It’s, unfortunately, why journalism gets such a bad rap these days. Organization’s like Murdoch’s pandering to the lowest common denominator and giving people what they want rather then what they need. I’m just surprised they haven’t taken it even further by supposedly hacking into fictional characters’ phone accounts and passing it off as reality.
“Superman, this is Lois, call me. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for years but the underwear goes inside your tights, not outside.”
Hearst must be spinning in his grave for not thinking of it first but, then again, there weren’t that many phones around in the late 1800s and early 20th century.
Hearst, you may recall, pioneered what came to be known as “Yellow Journalism,” a pseudonym for sensationalism and tabloid reporting. His father had operated the San Francisco Examiner at a financial loss just to wield political influence through its pages. The younger Hearst took over the New York Journal in the late 1890s and relied heavily on sensationalism to sell papers.
The legend goes that Hearst sent famous Old West artist Frederic Remington to Cuba to draw pictures of the coming Spanish–American War for the newspaper. When Remington arrived and saw that war wasn’t exactly eminent he asked Hearst if he could return. Hearst reportedly replied, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”
Sound familiar? But at least, to my knowledge, Hearst never preyed on victims of crimes or terrorist attacks or celebrities just because they were celebrities and that would sell papers.
So thank you Mr. Pie Thrower, whoever you are. You’ve done what every decent journalist would like to do to those of Murdoch’s ilk who give us all a bad name.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.