The press-corruption angle is what this scandal was originally about, obviously, with reporters breaking the law and paying people to break the law to violate people’s privacy. But the corruption is broader than that. Bland:
British newspaper proprietors have enjoyed a longstanding tradition of covering each other’s travails as minimally as possible, lest wounded rivals take revenge. Seven of the people I spoke to in the reporting of this story used some variation on the phrase “dog doesn’t eat dog.”
According to reporters across Fleet Street, it is clear that there can be negative professional consequences for those who report this kind of story—though there is never a need to make that fact explicit.
Bland also gets this incredible quote from the
editor executive editor of Murdoch’s Times of London:
“With this whole story I just hear the shrill shriek of axes being ground,” said Roger Alton, executive editor at The Times. As editor of The Independent in 2009—after ten years at The Observer, which he left acrimoniously—he felt the story was old news. “Everyone has an agenda. The New York Times certainly has an agenda, after Murdoch’s very forceful attempt to rival them with The Wall Street Journal.” There was no way to condone what had happened, Alton added, but that doesn’t mean the story merits coverage today. “For me this is stuff that happened a long time ago. People have gone to prison. Coulson’s resigned twice. It’s not as if any perceived wrongdoing hasn’t been sufficiently addressed. For me it’s roughly on a par with parking in a residents’ parking bay in terms of interest.”
This is either insane or craven. I’ll go with the latter. Police coverups. Corporate coverups. Celebrities and royals hacked. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Press hypocrisy. Payoffs to keep quiet. Possible perjury by the prime minister’s top aide. Stonewalling executives who now run The Wall Street Journal. And it’s far from over. This story is a journalist’s dream. Speaking of craven, here’s where we re-run that Stuart Varney interview of Murdoch—just for kicks:
That “interview” ran about the same time as this from Ellison’s piece:
By the fall of 2010, for the first time, top executives in New York were paying attention. As Murdoch saw it, media coverage of phone hacking was just an example of his competitors using their news pages to attack his commercial interests—intolerable when done by others.
This is interesting because it shows Murdoch projecting his own worldview (remarkably similar to Michael Wolff”s) onto other papers. That’s not to say that newspapers don’t use stories to pursue agendas, but Murdoch is the king of this sort of thing—far more likely to do so far more frequently than the two papers he’s talking about here, The Guardian and The New York Times.
I suppose it’s not unlikely that Murdoch thought he was so powerful that he could contain this story, but I have something of a hard time buying that it’s really true that Murdoch only started really paying attention to this scandal last fall (which would have been after that great New York Times story came out).
This guy, of all people, would surely know how tantalizing and damaging this story could be.
If somehow he didn’t know then, he sure knows now.