Thursday, July 07, 2011

News of the World to End Publishing

American media haven't had much about this, but if you want to see Twitter go crazy, search for #notw. Rumors, accusations, joy, bitterness, a rich array of emotions.

For a couple of years now, there have been desultory investigations of voicemail hacking of the royal family and others in Britain by News of the World reporters. The police weren't much interested, but finally agreed that maybe investigating this sort of thing might be part of their job. This week, it came out that NOTW reporters had hacked into the voicemail accounts of a teenage murder victim and her family, giving the family false hope and probably destroying evidence. Now the police are trying to contact 4000 people whose voicemail accounts may have been hacked. And, oh yeah, the police are accused of having been paid by NOTW reporters to help them with the hacking.

Altogether an ugly story, fiercely disavowed by the editor at the time of the hacking, Rebekah Brooks, now the chief executive of News International, Rupert Murdoch's newspaper fiefdom in Britain. Murdoch hasn't commented and seems to be hacking off the diseased limb before the gangrene spreads. His son, James, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, said it was "a matter of serious regret" tha he had authorised a six-figure payment to a phone-hacking victim several years ago, but blamed others at the company for his decision.

Yes, News of the World and its corrupt practices are part of the Murdoch empire. No reason for surprise there: Murdoch has long been clear that making money and political influence, not necessarily in that order, are his passions in life. And undoubtedly he communicated that to those who work for him.

The abrupt closure of NOTW has undoubtedly damaged the loyalty of its employees toward Rebekah Brooks and the Murdoch family, so we can expect to hear more from them. It will be interesting to see how far up the chain the corruption goes.

And yes, that's the same Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox News.

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