Audit Notes: News Corp. Coverup, GOP and the Unemployed, SOPA

Murdoch’s hacking scandal flared up again today, as News Corporation paid out millions of pounds worth of settlements to victims of News of the World crimes, which now include computer hacking.

A high court judge said the Murdoch-owned company behind the News of the World had made “an admission of sorts” that it engaged in a deliberate cover-up of evidence relating to phone hacking, on the day that the publisher paid an estimated seven figures in damages to settle 37 phone-hacking claims brought by public figures ranging from Jude Law to John Prescott.

Mr Justice Vos, the judge presiding over the hacking cases, told News Group Newspapers (NGN) he had seen evidence which raised “compelling questions about whether you concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot free.”

The judge ordered the company to search a number of computers which he said could contain evidence that its executives deliberately tried to destroy evidence of phone hacking, saying that he had seen emails which showed a “startling approach to the email record of NGN”.

In other words, the settlements hardly means Rupert’s done with this mess. This story is a long way from over.

— The Huffington Post’s Peter S. Goodman has a good piece juxtaposing the GOP presidential campaign in South Carolina with a visit to the unemployment line there:

From inside this stultifying space, the campaign in this electorally crucial Southern state might just as well be happening on some other planet. Many of the people massed here dismiss the candidates as something like characters on an irritating reality television show seen only while flipping channels. They are occupied with the daily struggle to pay bills minus a paycheck. But ask people about Gingrich’s rhetoric and that of other candidates who voice similar positions, and many vent disgust at intimations that their joblessness amounts to a chosen lifestyle financed by the taxpayer. As if they have chosen to be without work for months and years at a time.

“Are we here just ‘cause we like coming here?” says Stephen Ballard, who lost his job installing air conditioners in December, surrendering a roughly $500-a-week paycheck for a $179-a-week unemployment check. “If you think there’s jobs down here, come down and show us.”

“The rich stay with the rich,” he says. “They don’t socialize with people outside their circle.”

The candidates cannot hear such critiques. They are perpetually elsewhere — at yacht clubs on the coast and at town halls down the freeway, on the steps of the state Capitol less than a mile away, and in ballrooms like the one inside the downtown Marriott, where Gingrich describes the long-term unemployed as people who have lost the will to work.

— Yesterday it was John Gapper, today it’s David Pogue calling out the internet hysteria over SOPA:

In other words, the protests were effective. There’s no chance that the bills will become law in their current forms.

But it was a sloppy success; the scare language used by some of the Web sites was just as flawed as the Congressional language that they opposed. (I actually have sympathy—just a tiny bit—for the music business’s frustration. It was put nicely by Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recoding Industry Association of America: “It’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”)…

In the new world of Internet versus government, the system worked; the people spoke, government listened, and that’s good. But let’s do it responsibly, people. Both sides have an obligation to do the right thing.

Gapper’s is better, but it’s nice to see one of the gadget geeks saying something like this.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.