Monday, September 27, 2010

"...The End of Rupert Murdoch"

I realize I'm going off topic this morning. Enjoy.
From Advertising Age:

1. This really might be The End of Rupert Murdoch -- but not for the reasons you might think.
Imagine if a reporter at a big newspaper figured out a way to secretly access your cellphone's voicemail. Imagine if, one night, you'd engaged in some sort of perhaps ill-advised leisure-time pursuit -- say, visiting a strip club, even though you've got a girlfriend. Imagine the reporter later hacking into your voicemail. And then imagine that reporter's newspaper running a big, splashy piece that prints the verbatim text of a voicemail your brother left for you (How the hell did they get that?!, you think), in which he teased you about how pissed off your girlfriend is about your indiscretion.

Now imagine you are England's Prince Harry, your brother is Prince William, and the reporter works at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World.

This actually happened in 2006, and after not too much time it seemed like old news -- Scotland Yard got involved and seized files from the home of a private investigator on the News of the World's payroll. Turns out he had the cellular numbers of thousands of potential high-profile phone-hacking victims. The PI and the reporter he worked with ended up in jail. The scandal seemed contained, and Murdoch's News Corp. insisted that it was an isolated incident resulting from the actions of a couple rogues. But then, earlier this month, The New York Times Magazine published a cover story detailing the rather delicious fruits of a months-long, three-reporter investigation of News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal that suggested, rather forcefully and convincingly, potentially widespread abuses -- a culture of lawlessness, if you will, in a Murdochian newsroom -- and an all-too-deferential-to-Murdoch Scotland Yard that failed to even scratch the surface in deciding to prosecute only one reporter and PI.

Now the crap is hitting the fan anew. Additional high-profile Brits outside the royal family have been slowly learning that their privacy has been illegally violated by News of the World; at least one has sued and has already scored a million-pound settlement. Hundreds more such suits might be forthcoming. "Getting a letter from Scotland Yard that your phone has been hacked is rather like getting a Willy Wonka golden ticket," a lawyer told the magazine. "Time to queue up at Murdoch Towers to get paid."

News Corp. sees the Times Magazine piece as an act of war -- which, of course it is, because Murdoch has essentially declared war on The New York Times in his repositioning of his Wall Street Journal as a national general-interest newspaper. But, geez, "Tabloid Hack Attack!" (as the Times Magazine cheekily titled its cover story) is still a damn good yarn -- and a solid investigative report.

The repercussions for Murdoch keep getting uglier and uglier. Slate's Jack Shafer just ran a column titled "Murdoch's Watergate" and subtitled "The U.K. phone-hacking scandal will undo the media mogul." A lot of the ugliness has to do with the fact that Andy Coulson, the top editor at the News of the World in 2006 -- he ultimately resigned but claimed ignorance of the phone hacking -- ended up on the payroll of the Conservative Party. And he's now the top communications aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron. (The Times Magazine investigation suggests quite vividly that Coulson knew about, and condoned, the phone hacking that happened on his watch.)

Is this potentially the end of 79-year-old Rupert Murdoch? Sort of -- but not directly because of the phone-hacking scandal. Remember, News Corp. has a frightfully powerful war-room -- and Murdoch personally owns/controls much of the British press, which is why it took America's newspaper of record to convincingly turn up the heat on the News of the World crimes. And legal fees -- even if News Corp. has to pay out hundreds of individual settlements to hackees -- likely won't materially affect the bottom line.
No, what's really going to do in Murdoch is the distraction -- and the humiliation. The New York Times has not only gotten the better of him, it may just mobilize the British government to properly investigate News Corp. ... which is just not fair, because Rupert thinks he's the only one who gets to control British pols!...MORE
From the Village Voice:


Happy Birthday, Rupert Murdoch! At the great old age of 79, the media baron's going to have to be gifted well. Who knows how many he has left? It's late in the day and you still haven't gotten him anything, and you don't know what to get him? Funny you should ask. We've got a few decent ideas, right this way:
1. Just a nice dinner with the family. That's it! Really. That's all he needs.
2. Full series order for Baby American Gladiators, to toughen and ready infant children to do battle with decrepit "teenagers" from past marriages.
3. Just a card.
4. To get away from this one-horse town.
5. An episode of Intervention for Col Allen.
6. Whoopie cushions for the viewing party. With Mort Zuckerman's face on them.
7. A Party of Five reunion.
8. A cat named "Meow Jones."
9. A box of Droopy Dog temporary tattoos.
10. A pretty yellow box.
11. A Chihuahua named "Slim."
12. A Doberman to eat it.
13. A Sasquatch to eat the Doberman.
14. A New York Post reporter who can catch the Sasquatch eating the Doberman without calling it "Darkie."
15. Actually kind of just wants "the Mexican" to go ahead and buy the New York Times...MORE