Some thoughts on Murdoch and the want for tabloid journalism

An awful lot has been said and written about Rupert Murdoch, the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and tabloid journalism as a whole. From the superb work of someto the stupid, fame-hungry actions of others, the scandal really has been packed with drama – which is sad, in a way, because the main story should not be an 80-year-old man having a pie thrust into his face; it should be the terrible intrusion from certain people in the media into the lives of innocent people and the sickening actions of some journalists which has brought this story-obtaining method into the public eye – which hopefully will result in change.

Clearly, the tabloids in this country are very popular, in terms of sales of newspapers and hits on their websites. In January 2011, The Sun sold 3,001,822 copies; Daily Mail 2,136,568; Daily Mirror 1,194,097; Daily Star 734,311. If you compare that to the broadsheets such as the Daily Telegraph (651,184) and The Times (457,250) and then, somewhere in between the two formats, The Guardian (279,308), it’s clear to see that, based purely on circulation figures, tabloids are popular and so fine just the way they are and so there is an argument to say that the tabloids are just giving the readers what they want; it’s because of the public that the ‘gutter press’ has developed.
In fact, many tabloid journalists, over the past few weeks, have put forward the notion that they do little wrong in terms of the stories they write and the privacy that they continually invade. ‘The public clearly want to see who Katie Price is sleeping with because, with that on our front page, sales grow massively’ is the general argument.
But there is a difference between actually wantingsomething and being quite happy to take it. Don’t get me wrong – when the Ryan Giggs-Imogen Thomas story broke, I was straight on the Daily Mail website to find out the latest, searching his name on Google every so often just to see if there were any new revelations. But if that information wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be thinking: ‘Hmm, I’d really love to know who Ryan Giggs is sleeping with’ or ‘I’d love to see loads of photographs of women in bikinis with snide comments just below them either commenting on the person’s weightor the bikini they have chosen, or maybe even making massive assumptions based on their facial expressions which could be easily manipulated thanks to a split-second photograph. Because I am that much of a cock’.
To a certain extent, then, the public isto blame for the current state of tabloid journalism. We keep buying it and lapping the information up so they keep writing these pointless, slightly offensive stories – and get away with it. Nae, profit from it daily. But no one – in their right mind – would complain if the clothing choices and sex lives of celebrities were to suddenly disappear from the ‘papers.
The public could, if they were that enraged, stop buying all tabloids until the culture changes. But that doesn’t mean that the public want to know about sex scandals (as long as they are reasonably harmless to the public) or celeb holiday photos – they’ll happily take the information but their lives would not change in the slightest if the information wasn’t there.
On Murdoch, there seems to be a lot of dismay (and, from some, anger) that Rupert Murdoch did not know about the evidence that Rebekah Brooks gave in 2003 and, although he did become aware of it later, News International did not investigate further.
Rupert Murdoch is an 80-year-old man who is worth around $7.6 billion. The list of assets owned by his company, News Corporation, is so long that I can’t even be bothered to count them. There are a lot – enough to render the News of the World pretty insignificant in terms of the day-to-day business of News Corp.
Many have said that the book must ultimately stop with Rupert Murdoch because it’s his company – how could he possibly not know what is going on inside his own corporation? To a certain extent, this is a fair comment but, as Murdoch says “the News of the World is less than 1% of my company, and we employ 50,000 people… I appoint people who I trust to run it.”
It would simply not be feasible to know all the ins-and-outs of every company that he owns and it is not implausible (and, I think, not a particularly negative stance for Murdoch to take) to think that he doesn’t know everything that goes on inside News Corporation and the many businesses within that. In an ideal world, maybe he would know every little detail, but Murdoch relies on the people he employs to keep him informed. The problem isn’t that Murdoch doesn’t take a hands-on approach to all his businesses – the problem is that the people he has trusted have let him down.
Far be it from me to defend Rupert Murdoch, but there is a difference between owning something and running it. He pays other people to run the companies for him while he overlooks events from a general point of view. People are right to be slightly taken aback by Murdoch’s lack of knowledge on certain events (if indeed it is a genuine lack of knowledge) but anyone who believes that Murdoch should know (or, want to know) everything about the daily happenings of News of the World is living in an unrealistic, almost fabricated world – a tabloid world, if you will. 

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