it down! That's my take on the news that another Rupert Murdoch
publication is being implicated in the criminal activity that led to the
end of the News of the World last summer, the first casualty in the
Seven Years War, so named for the fetid, long-running Murdoch invasion
So far, nine journalists at The Sun -- the crown jewel and cash cow
in Rupert's UK newspaper portfolio -- have taken the perp walk on
suspicion of illegal news gathering techniques like phone hacking and
bribing public officials. The five who joined the gang this past week
included a deputy editor, chief reporter, chief foreign correspondent,
and picture editor.
I say to Father Rupert: It's your reputation, mate.
The last time this kind of embarrassing thing happened you acted
swiftly on discovering newsroom hijinks that had been going on since the
last century, shutting down a venerable 168-year-old institution. To do
less now, it will say to the 247 ex-employees of NOW they died in vain.
Not to mention the ruined weekends of NOW readers who had become
addicted to its weekly dose of sex scandals, TV soap operas,
celebrities, and the Royals
The daily sister, The Sun, nobly filled the information gap:
kiss-and-tell journalism detailing bedroom romps and gambols of the
rich, famous, and powerful, adding the wrinkle of that other Murdoch
major contribution to journalism, the Page Three Girls.
I realize a multitude of aspiring journalists, willing to bare their
chests for the Murdochian Empire, will be out of jobs. But as Marshal Philippe Pétain or Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, said, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs."
The editor of The Sun -- Britain's best-selling paper (circulation
more than 2.7 million) said he was "as shocked as anyone by the
I wasn't totally astonished by the allegations that anybody at The
Sun would be participating in anything illegal. If your nose is any
guide to the news, nobody should be shocked to find out that there was
something rotten elsewhere in Wapping.
News is a competitive business. Getting scoops means bonuses,
promotions, prestige. Journalists are under intense pressure to come up
with stories. A minor thing like invading privacy and breaking laws
doesn't stand in the way of finding out which celebrity is doing what to
whom. Damn the ethics. Leave that to the tossers in the Ivory Towers.
That was the prevailing ethos at News of the World.
A fascinating series of numbers came out of the case against the
private investigator who worked at NOW as a kind of legman. According to
investigators who examined 11,000 pages of Glenn Mulcaire's notes on
his work that were seized in 2007, he had received 2,266 requests for
phone hacking from 28 journalists. The police said that as many as 5,795
people may have been targeted between 2001 and 2009.
That's a lot of illegal activity. The message at NOW was that phone
hacking was hunky dory. And why shouldn't it be allowed at its sister
publication? Hey, even at its most legal, no one could ever confuse The
Sun with the Christian Science Monitor
Nor would I be surprised -- if the allegations turn out to be not
just alleged -- if the accused dusts off the old Sgt. Schultz Defense.
The "I know nothing! I see nothing!" defense was used so ineffectually
by their bosses, Murdoch, father and son, in The News of the World case.
Without The Sun and NOW, where will the public gets its illegal news?
Who will be illegally pestering celebrities and harassing politicians
with petty details of their personal lives? Somehow the free market will
Trying to draw a line under the growing NOW scandal, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) formed a Management and Standards Committee to root out all evil-doing before it went viral.
Admittedly, it will be a Herculean effort cleaning out the Augean
stable at Wapping. If News Corp. is serious about wanting to clean
house, it defies logic to not close The Sun. What's good for the goose
is good for the gander.
Murdoch said The News of the World gave him "a major black eye." He
will have two black eyes if he doesn't deal with this problem now. Close
It Down, Rupert, before The Sun hits the fan.