Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rupert's World

Good morning and welcome to your daily community newspaper.

You may notice we’ve made a few changes due to the fact that we have
been sold to Rupert Murdoch.

We have discarded well-written and informative stories in favor of
salacious scandal about our elected officials, sports figures,
community leaders and anybody else we can smear.

We are no longer interested in the agendas and actions of our city
councils and boards of education.

Rather, we will be reporting on members’ sex lives, mental health,
financial status and any and all dirt we can dig up.

To accomplish this, we will bribe public officials and cops and
engage in hacking personal phone calls and e-mails and use the
information to wield political power over those with whom we
disagree. There are no moral or ethical boundaries we will not
violate in order to achieve our goals.

For your entertainment, we will run pictures of topless models on
Page 3 complete with leering, sexist comments.

We understand that this new direction in our reporting will lead to
the arrest and conviction of some of our reporters and editors but,
hey, that’s the price you pay.

This, of course, is just a fantasy, or rather a nightmare. We haven’t
really been sold to Murdoch and we fervently hope it will never come
to pass.

But it’s a useful tool to illustrate the methods Rupert Murdoch and
his band of mad hatters in England who, in the pursuit of lurid and
sensational scoops, in an attempt to get the story at any cost, to
beat the competition by any means necessary, have completely lost
their moral and ethical compass.

To recount: As far back as 2006, Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid
was charged by police with intercepting voice mail messages left for
members of Britain’s royal family.

Police began a new investigation into phone hacking allegations in
February 2011, at which time more than 20 civil cases against the
News of the World were active. Lawyers for the victims allege that as
many as 7,000 people had their phones accessed by the News of the

Then earlier this month, allegations were made that the News of the
World hacked into the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl, destroying
possible evidence in the search for her killer, as well as victims of
the London terrorist bombings and relatives of deceased British

It was even more than the gossip-loving British public could stand.
Reporters and editors were arrested. Advertisers withdrew from the
News of the World and other Murdoch publications.

Murdoch promptly shut down the 168-year-old publication in a cynical
attempt to keep alive his attempt to purchase the lucrative British
Sky Broadcasting Group, an attempt that failed when Murdoch withdrew
his $12 billion bid in the wake of the hacking scandal.

In the midst of all this, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused
Murdoch’s papers of hiring “known criminals” to ferret our
information on him and his family, including his personal finances
and his infant son’s medical history.

Brown is not the only politician to feel Murdoch’s wrath. According
to a New York Times story, Clare Short, a Labour member of
Parliament, mentioned in passing at a luncheon in 2004 that she did
not care for the photographs of saucy, topless women that appear
every day on Page 3 of Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid. “I’d like to take
the pornography out of our press,” she said.

“ ‘Fat, Jealous’ Clare Brands Page 3 Porn” was The Sun’s headline in
response. Its editor sent a busload of semi-dressed models to jeer at
Ms. Short at her house. The paper stuck a photograph of Ms. Short’s
head over the body of a topless woman and found a number of people to
declare that, in fact, they thoroughly enjoyed the sexy photos.

OK, so a band of British loonies engaged in sleazy and illegal
tactics and left ethics and good taste lying broken and bleeding in
the street. Why should we care?

Because Rupert Murdoch may be practicing the same sort of abhorrent
journalism right here in America.

His Fox News has already been revealed as something less than “fair
and balanced” for contributing $1 million to Republican political

His New York Post is as raunchy and irresponsible as his British
tabloids. He now owns the prestigious Wall Street Journal and it
remains to be seen if he brings his own brand of “journalism” to that

And the FBI, prodded by members of Congress, has opened an
investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. attempted to
hack into the telephones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
and the families of those who died.

American journalism is at the crossroads. It needs visibility, it
needs a blueprint to survive in the information age, it needs money
to stay alive and thrive.

More importantly, it needs to maintain its credibility. And because
it does, it doesn’t need Rupert Murdoch.

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