Journalists gone wild

Are you following the scandal swirling around media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s empire, which includes The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, just to name two of his American holdings?  It seems reporters from his British tabloid News of the World have been caught hacking into voice mails of celebrities, crime victims, members of the Royal family, and even families of 9/11 victims.  Now investigators have uncovered evidence that reporters have bribed police officers for story tips–leading to the resignation of the head of Scotland Yard, no less–as well as questionable connections to leading politicians, including Prime Minister Cameron.

Murdoch has shut down News of the World, whose editor has been arrested.  Here is the best overview I have found of the whole tangled story:  News International phone hacking scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

And of course some people are hoping that the scandal might pull down Murdoch and his conservative-leaning news outlets, including Fox News, though there seems to be no obvious connections.

First, does anyone know how a reporter could hack into someone else’s phone or voice mail?

Second, does this scandal teach us anything about contemporary journalism?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Another good source on this affair, interestingly, is the WSJ.

    I’ve had some people briefly describe a few means for hacking emails or phone messages. An obvious one is bribery. If you can bribe police to release details, you can probably bribe a telecom employee to hand off sensitive account information like a password.

  • SKPeterson

    Another good source on this affair, interestingly, is the WSJ.

    I’ve had some people briefly describe a few means for hacking emails or phone messages. An obvious one is bribery. If you can bribe police to release details, you can probably bribe a telecom employee to hand off sensitive account information like a password.

  • Steve Billingsley

    It teaches us that contemporary journalism isn’t nearly so far removed from the muckraking, “yellow journalism” days as they like to pretend. Most newspapers until the early 20th century made no bones about being partisan mouthpieces. In the second half of the 20th century journalism schools popped up in major universities, “credentialing” (as in most reporters having degrees) became the norm and the fig leaf of “objectivity” was donned.
    Journalists positioned themselves as “honest arbiters” who were looking out for the people’s interests. The Watergate scandal and the work of Woodward and Bernstein cemented this in many people’s minds (never mind that there were some shady ethics in the way they obtained the relevant info).
    I just wish that newspapers and news media would just be up front about their biases and points of view.
    Media and government are often just joined at the hip and the idea of the media “keeping the government honest” is in most respects a sad joke.

  • Steve Billingsley

    It teaches us that contemporary journalism isn’t nearly so far removed from the muckraking, “yellow journalism” days as they like to pretend. Most newspapers until the early 20th century made no bones about being partisan mouthpieces. In the second half of the 20th century journalism schools popped up in major universities, “credentialing” (as in most reporters having degrees) became the norm and the fig leaf of “objectivity” was donned.
    Journalists positioned themselves as “honest arbiters” who were looking out for the people’s interests. The Watergate scandal and the work of Woodward and Bernstein cemented this in many people’s minds (never mind that there were some shady ethics in the way they obtained the relevant info).
    I just wish that newspapers and news media would just be up front about their biases and points of view.
    Media and government are often just joined at the hip and the idea of the media “keeping the government honest” is in most respects a sad joke.

  • SKPeterson

    As a complete and total aside, with no relevance to the topic at hand, will someone please let journalists and bloggers in on the difference between dominant and dominate? When a species is at the top of the food chain it is dominant, not dominate. It dominates the other species, not dominants. This goes for predominant and predominate, as well.

  • SKPeterson

    As a complete and total aside, with no relevance to the topic at hand, will someone please let journalists and bloggers in on the difference between dominant and dominate? When a species is at the top of the food chain it is dominant, not dominate. It dominates the other species, not dominants. This goes for predominant and predominate, as well.

  • http://johnorr.me.uk JohnO

    The whole affair is somewhat symptomatic of the public’s appetite for sleaze – and journalists’ drive to outdo one another for a story. As print media becomes more embattled by online news sources, and as online and broadcast media struggle to ‘monetize’ their content, anything that can scoop a story is followed through. The editorial pressures to ‘find’ a story must be immense.
    As for hacking voicemail, generally, all you need is the mobile number and thereafter rely on apathy. Many people simply don’t change the default password/code on such things – after all, it’s not like there’s anything important on there…
    And even if it’s not the default code, I’m not aware of restrictions on the number of times you can try a code on voicemail (but I may be wrong on this one).

  • http://johnorr.me.uk JohnO

    The whole affair is somewhat symptomatic of the public’s appetite for sleaze – and journalists’ drive to outdo one another for a story. As print media becomes more embattled by online news sources, and as online and broadcast media struggle to ‘monetize’ their content, anything that can scoop a story is followed through. The editorial pressures to ‘find’ a story must be immense.
    As for hacking voicemail, generally, all you need is the mobile number and thereafter rely on apathy. Many people simply don’t change the default password/code on such things – after all, it’s not like there’s anything important on there…
    And even if it’s not the default code, I’m not aware of restrictions on the number of times you can try a code on voicemail (but I may be wrong on this one).

  • jim_in_indiana

    What would it take for the media to go after George Soros like they have the Murdochs?

  • jim_in_indiana

    What would it take for the media to go after George Soros like they have the Murdochs?

  • Booklover

    “Second, does this scandal teach us anything about contemporary journalism?”

    Yes, that gossip is more valuable than true news that matters.

  • Booklover

    “Second, does this scandal teach us anything about contemporary journalism?”

    Yes, that gossip is more valuable than true news that matters.

  • Kirk

    @5 Apparently, a phone hacking scandal or something of the like.

    But seriously, I see what you’re getting at. Don’t forget that the Murdochs control a pretty significant share of “the media.” If Murdoch had something on Soros, News Corp conglomerates would be all over that.

  • Kirk

    @5 Apparently, a phone hacking scandal or something of the like.

    But seriously, I see what you’re getting at. Don’t forget that the Murdochs control a pretty significant share of “the media.” If Murdoch had something on Soros, News Corp conglomerates would be all over that.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    No, there currently is no link between Fox News/WSJ and News Corp in regards to the actual phone hacking, but the fact that, as Murdoch-owned outlets, they both are saying loudly “nothing to see here, please move on” ought to be a huge red flag to any reasonable observer.

    Commentators on Fox News’ own “News Watch” show have been caught deliberately avoiding the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal (“Anyone want to talk about the story we’re not covering?” “Not with a ten foot poll”). This on a show supposedly devoted to investigating biases and inaccuracies of other networks. When they talked about it at all, Fox commentators unbelievably portray NotW as somehow a victim of hacking rather than the perpetrator.

    William F. Buckley showed conservatives how to purge their own ranks of unhealthy influences. It’s time to do this now with Fox News. If that isn’t clear to us all now, it will be later.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    No, there currently is no link between Fox News/WSJ and News Corp in regards to the actual phone hacking, but the fact that, as Murdoch-owned outlets, they both are saying loudly “nothing to see here, please move on” ought to be a huge red flag to any reasonable observer.

    Commentators on Fox News’ own “News Watch” show have been caught deliberately avoiding the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal (“Anyone want to talk about the story we’re not covering?” “Not with a ten foot poll”). This on a show supposedly devoted to investigating biases and inaccuracies of other networks. When they talked about it at all, Fox commentators unbelievably portray NotW as somehow a victim of hacking rather than the perpetrator.

    William F. Buckley showed conservatives how to purge their own ranks of unhealthy influences. It’s time to do this now with Fox News. If that isn’t clear to us all now, it will be later.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Also, the scandal goes beyond hacking of voice mails:

    News Corp. is accused of not just phone-hacking but also bribery of police officers and illegal access to private medical and banking records, obtained with the assistance of multiple private investigators and a convicted con artist. The crimes may not have been limited to the now-shuttered News of the World, but may have also included the Sunday Times. News Corp. withheld information from Parliament and paid hush money to hacking victims in order to avoid making the extent of its crimes public. People in charge of the News of the World during the hacking and the coverup of the hacking went on to much more powerful and influential positions in News Corp. and in the current Conservative government.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Also, the scandal goes beyond hacking of voice mails:

    News Corp. is accused of not just phone-hacking but also bribery of police officers and illegal access to private medical and banking records, obtained with the assistance of multiple private investigators and a convicted con artist. The crimes may not have been limited to the now-shuttered News of the World, but may have also included the Sunday Times. News Corp. withheld information from Parliament and paid hush money to hacking victims in order to avoid making the extent of its crimes public. People in charge of the News of the World during the hacking and the coverup of the hacking went on to much more powerful and influential positions in News Corp. and in the current Conservative government.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Kirk @7
    So Soros collaborating with Nazis as a young man and speculating on the British pound causing large losses on public pension funds wasn’t enough?

  • Steve Billingsley

    Kirk @7
    So Soros collaborating with Nazis as a young man and speculating on the British pound causing large losses on public pension funds wasn’t enough?

  • CRB

    What I’ve wondered for quite some time: “Is “Fox News” really “news” or primarily, “opinion”? Really, does anyone know which portions of the 24 “news program” is really news and which is “opinion” and in some cases, mere gossip?

  • CRB

    What I’ve wondered for quite some time: “Is “Fox News” really “news” or primarily, “opinion”? Really, does anyone know which portions of the 24 “news program” is really news and which is “opinion” and in some cases, mere gossip?

  • Steve Billingsley

    CRB @11
    You could ask the same question about CNN and MSNBC

    They are all part news, part opinion, part entertainment, part gossip and part shouting non sequiturs.

  • Steve Billingsley

    CRB @11
    You could ask the same question about CNN and MSNBC

    They are all part news, part opinion, part entertainment, part gossip and part shouting non sequiturs.

  • CRB

    Steve,
    Yes, so true!

  • CRB

    Steve,
    Yes, so true!

  • WebMonk

    Another hacking method is to just try the default PIN code that is left to be the ‘password’ on most cell phones by their users.

    I hacked my parents’ phone to get them back into their account one time by trying ’1111′, ’1122′, and then ’1234′. Their pin was ’1234′.

    That was nearly 7 years ago, and things have improved since then, but it’s still not anywhere near perfect. I think it was AT&T that first required new buyers to generate their own PIN number upon purchase instead of just giving them the default of ’1234′ or ’1111′. That practice has spread somewhat, but not everywhere.

    Then there are the more sophisticated attacks that are essentially the same as hacking a computer through software openings that allow the running of malicious code. Sort of like Windows, IE, Firefox, etc have regular updates to fix holes and bugs, the same is true of phone software. Except that most phone software is far less secure than even PC software.

    I’ve heard secure government facilities don’t allow commercial cell phones on their premises, at all. It’s relatively easy for a phreaker to crack a phone to remotely control it even when it’s turned off.

  • WebMonk

    Another hacking method is to just try the default PIN code that is left to be the ‘password’ on most cell phones by their users.

    I hacked my parents’ phone to get them back into their account one time by trying ’1111′, ’1122′, and then ’1234′. Their pin was ’1234′.

    That was nearly 7 years ago, and things have improved since then, but it’s still not anywhere near perfect. I think it was AT&T that first required new buyers to generate their own PIN number upon purchase instead of just giving them the default of ’1234′ or ’1111′. That practice has spread somewhat, but not everywhere.

    Then there are the more sophisticated attacks that are essentially the same as hacking a computer through software openings that allow the running of malicious code. Sort of like Windows, IE, Firefox, etc have regular updates to fix holes and bugs, the same is true of phone software. Except that most phone software is far less secure than even PC software.

    I’ve heard secure government facilities don’t allow commercial cell phones on their premises, at all. It’s relatively easy for a phreaker to crack a phone to remotely control it even when it’s turned off.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I can’t comment about the Foxnews TV channel as I don’t have cable, but the online version is reporting regularly on the scandal involving News of the World.

    As Webmonk noted, hacking voicemail is child’s play. If you know the year the person was born, birth years of spouses, they year they graduated highschool or college, was married you can hack a great majority of voicemail accounts.

    @#8 Not that it excuses what has happened, I would not be surprised if one dug into CNN, MSNBC, or any other news outlet they will find questionable, if not illegal practices used to obtain information.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I can’t comment about the Foxnews TV channel as I don’t have cable, but the online version is reporting regularly on the scandal involving News of the World.

    As Webmonk noted, hacking voicemail is child’s play. If you know the year the person was born, birth years of spouses, they year they graduated highschool or college, was married you can hack a great majority of voicemail accounts.

    @#8 Not that it excuses what has happened, I would not be surprised if one dug into CNN, MSNBC, or any other news outlet they will find questionable, if not illegal practices used to obtain information.

  • Jon

    It’s interesting to see even the slightest criticism of Fox News (based on evidence) always elicits the response that other networks MUST be doing the same thing (based on no evidence).

  • Jon

    It’s interesting to see even the slightest criticism of Fox News (based on evidence) always elicits the response that other networks MUST be doing the same thing (based on no evidence).

  • Steve Billingsley

    Jon @16
    Who accused other networks of anything other than being biased, unprofessional and hacktastic?
    I don’t know that they (other networks) have done anything illegal. (I don’t know that Fox News did either, though it appears pretty clear that News Corp did)
    If it is proved (which it looks pretty likely) that News Corp, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal or anyone else did anything illegal then everyone involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Bias and ridiculousness are a totally separate issue.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Jon @16
    Who accused other networks of anything other than being biased, unprofessional and hacktastic?
    I don’t know that they (other networks) have done anything illegal. (I don’t know that Fox News did either, though it appears pretty clear that News Corp did)
    If it is proved (which it looks pretty likely) that News Corp, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal or anyone else did anything illegal then everyone involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Bias and ridiculousness are a totally separate issue.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @16 If you are curious, I’d say the same thing if it were other networks. Human beings are human beings and seeing how they are I am pretty sure questionable and illegal practices are occurring in any organization.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @16 If you are curious, I’d say the same thing if it were other networks. Human beings are human beings and seeing how they are I am pretty sure questionable and illegal practices are occurring in any organization.

  • Kirk

    @10,

    So, I’m guessing that you learned all of this from independent research as it was never reported by anyone in “the media.” Oh, wait…

  • Kirk

    @10,

    So, I’m guessing that you learned all of this from independent research as it was never reported by anyone in “the media.” Oh, wait…

  • Steve Billingsley

    Kirk @ 19
    Wow you’re clever.

    Has anyone in the media ever “gone after” Soros? I mean really gone after him?

    As far as Murdoch is concerned, I could give two whits about him. If he is guilty, go get him. Hacking people’s phones, etc. is reprehensible.

    If Soros and Murdoch had a scumbag contest, I’m pretty sure both of them would win.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Kirk @ 19
    Wow you’re clever.

    Has anyone in the media ever “gone after” Soros? I mean really gone after him?

    As far as Murdoch is concerned, I could give two whits about him. If he is guilty, go get him. Hacking people’s phones, etc. is reprehensible.

    If Soros and Murdoch had a scumbag contest, I’m pretty sure both of them would win.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@20), please stop derailing this conversation about how awful George Soros is with your occasional mentions of Rupert Murdoch.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@20), please stop derailing this conversation about how awful George Soros is with your occasional mentions of Rupert Murdoch.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Todd @ 21
    I didn’t bring up George Soros, read the whole comment thread.
    (see comments 5 and 7, I responded in 10, commented 3 other times before and after and then responded to Kirk’s comment at 19)

    How is responding to specific comments by other commenters derailing a thread?

  • Steve Billingsley

    Todd @ 21
    I didn’t bring up George Soros, read the whole comment thread.
    (see comments 5 and 7, I responded in 10, commented 3 other times before and after and then responded to Kirk’s comment at 19)

    How is responding to specific comments by other commenters derailing a thread?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@22), thank you for getting things back on topic. For a moment there, I thought we might have to start discussing the actions of Murdoch and his company.

    But the topic here, as Veith made clear, is whatever bad people you (and others) want to discuss.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@22), thank you for getting things back on topic. For a moment there, I thought we might have to start discussing the actions of Murdoch and his company.

    But the topic here, as Veith made clear, is whatever bad people you (and others) want to discuss.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Did anyone see the testimony before Parliament? Really great security they have there.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Did anyone see the testimony before Parliament? Really great security they have there.

  • Cincinnatus

    Actually, the Economist just did a piece showing that News of the World is not even the worst offender among British newspapers/tabloids with regards to reported phone hacking incidents. Other unaffiliated newspapers exceed the crimes of News of the World by quite a large margin. The reason, I think, that this is a story is because Murdoch was involved in otherwise promising talks to purchase BSkyB–a huge network along the lines of NBC or Fox here–something requiring Parliamentary approval. This deal attracted a lot of public attention across the pond for whatever reason, and the hacking thing blew up at the same time. For what it’s worth, Murdoch was greatly admired as an entrepreneur in Britain as well (and his papers there truly do span the political spectrum, which proves that his “interests” in right-wing broadcasting in America are purely mercenary). So there are a lot of odd dynamics in play here.

    Of course, none of this implies that the same thing is happening in America, either in Murdoch’s media outlets or otherwise. Apparently, moreover, this was all occurring without Murdoch’s knowledge. But we would be fools to suppose that our media outlets–Fox, MSNBC, NYTimes, Washington Post (this one especially is notorious for dubious investigative tactics)–aren’t doing the same.

    Yeah, I read The Economist. You wanna fight about it? And no, I don’t have cable, so I couldn’t watch Fox if a I wanted, and have no desire to defend it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Actually, the Economist just did a piece showing that News of the World is not even the worst offender among British newspapers/tabloids with regards to reported phone hacking incidents. Other unaffiliated newspapers exceed the crimes of News of the World by quite a large margin. The reason, I think, that this is a story is because Murdoch was involved in otherwise promising talks to purchase BSkyB–a huge network along the lines of NBC or Fox here–something requiring Parliamentary approval. This deal attracted a lot of public attention across the pond for whatever reason, and the hacking thing blew up at the same time. For what it’s worth, Murdoch was greatly admired as an entrepreneur in Britain as well (and his papers there truly do span the political spectrum, which proves that his “interests” in right-wing broadcasting in America are purely mercenary). So there are a lot of odd dynamics in play here.

    Of course, none of this implies that the same thing is happening in America, either in Murdoch’s media outlets or otherwise. Apparently, moreover, this was all occurring without Murdoch’s knowledge. But we would be fools to suppose that our media outlets–Fox, MSNBC, NYTimes, Washington Post (this one especially is notorious for dubious investigative tactics)–aren’t doing the same.

    Yeah, I read The Economist. You wanna fight about it? And no, I don’t have cable, so I couldn’t watch Fox if a I wanted, and have no desire to defend it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, and I can’t link the Economist article because it apparently isn’t online. I’ll see if I can find the nifty chart they provided, however.

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, and I can’t link the Economist article because it apparently isn’t online. I’ll see if I can find the nifty chart they provided, however.

  • John C

    “Murdoch spans the political spectrum” from A to B, Cincinnatus.
    ‘The Australian” has lost money since its inception and is subsidised by more profitible activities in the empire.
    Murdoch owns 70% of newspapers here and his views on industrial law, the Iraq war, national broadband and media legislation are well known by Green and Labor politicians. Political influence, not profit, is the primary justification for its ongoing publication.
    The Fox network and Murdoch’s publications in Australia share the same odious news values and editorial opinion.
    Murdoch is a blight on the body politic in a number of countries. I do not lament the old bugger’s decline.

  • John C

    “Murdoch spans the political spectrum” from A to B, Cincinnatus.
    ‘The Australian” has lost money since its inception and is subsidised by more profitible activities in the empire.
    Murdoch owns 70% of newspapers here and his views on industrial law, the Iraq war, national broadband and media legislation are well known by Green and Labor politicians. Political influence, not profit, is the primary justification for its ongoing publication.
    The Fox network and Murdoch’s publications in Australia share the same odious news values and editorial opinion.
    Murdoch is a blight on the body politic in a number of countries. I do not lament the old bugger’s decline.

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, I don’t lament his decline, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s a “blight on the body politic.” Or rather, he is a blight, but little more than other media magnates. But yes, in Britain his papers span the spectrum. And he actually was admired in Britain, whereas in America, he is largely viewed as a rather sinister character (except, I suppose, by Fox devotees, of whom there are quite a few).

    But this leads to a larger point: Fox News and Murdoch’s other news outlets are biased (and the whole press in Britain is openly biased). Duh. We knew this. MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other outlets, are also politically partisan. This is a relatively recent phenomenon–in our own minds, anyway. In fact, the monolithic, ostensibly “objective” media outlets of the twentieth century were an anomaly, a deal struck between advertisers who funded the networks and newspapers and didn’t want to lose customers by sponsoring divisive coverage. All we are seeing is a fitful but slow return to the status quo ante in America, which, particularly between the eighteenth century fervor of revolution and the Civil War, was a diverse, multifarious, and extremely biased media environment. Everyone took a side, and no one was ashamed of it. Fox News has begun this re-fracturing of opinion in the former unanimous empire of television. The internet, of course, is accelerating this trend faster than Fox–in all directions of the ideological canvas.

    So the real story here isn’t Murdoch, per se. The real story is the wider revolution in journalism. Yea or nay?

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, I don’t lament his decline, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s a “blight on the body politic.” Or rather, he is a blight, but little more than other media magnates. But yes, in Britain his papers span the spectrum. And he actually was admired in Britain, whereas in America, he is largely viewed as a rather sinister character (except, I suppose, by Fox devotees, of whom there are quite a few).

    But this leads to a larger point: Fox News and Murdoch’s other news outlets are biased (and the whole press in Britain is openly biased). Duh. We knew this. MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other outlets, are also politically partisan. This is a relatively recent phenomenon–in our own minds, anyway. In fact, the monolithic, ostensibly “objective” media outlets of the twentieth century were an anomaly, a deal struck between advertisers who funded the networks and newspapers and didn’t want to lose customers by sponsoring divisive coverage. All we are seeing is a fitful but slow return to the status quo ante in America, which, particularly between the eighteenth century fervor of revolution and the Civil War, was a diverse, multifarious, and extremely biased media environment. Everyone took a side, and no one was ashamed of it. Fox News has begun this re-fracturing of opinion in the former unanimous empire of television. The internet, of course, is accelerating this trend faster than Fox–in all directions of the ideological canvas.

    So the real story here isn’t Murdoch, per se. The real story is the wider revolution in journalism. Yea or nay?

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    It doesn’t so much teach us something about journalism as reiterate two things we already know. 1) Journalistic ethics is a punchline. 2) Liberals are desperate to delegitimize FoxNews.

    A third item that I’ve heard bandied about (perhaps by that nasty WSJ?) is that news outlets have outsized influence in Britain due to laws that have tried to take money out of politics. As such they would tend to attract corruption.

    A fourth item might be: journalism is a rotting body of death like the rest of us.

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    It doesn’t so much teach us something about journalism as reiterate two things we already know. 1) Journalistic ethics is a punchline. 2) Liberals are desperate to delegitimize FoxNews.

    A third item that I’ve heard bandied about (perhaps by that nasty WSJ?) is that news outlets have outsized influence in Britain due to laws that have tried to take money out of politics. As such they would tend to attract corruption.

    A fourth item might be: journalism is a rotting body of death like the rest of us.

  • John C

    The Dirty Digger was respected and feared, Cincinnatus, but never admired.
    You must elaborate on Rupert’s British newspapers spanning the spectrum.
    I can’t comment on the partisanship of New York Times or the Washington Post but surely you cannot equate these newspapers with the misinformation and hysteria of Fox News — this is just too post modern — you might as well say a Donald Duck comic has the same literary merit as War and Peace.
    The real story does not change — the US has an election next year and Australia can go to an election any time in the next 2 years. In both countries, Murdoch is still a man of influence.
    And yes, newspapers are in decline but Murdoch still owns satellite and cable services.
    Still, Britain and Australia could review the cross ownership laws. It may turn Murdoch from a media mogul to a media minnow.
    Now that would be a good thing wouldn’t it W B Picklesworth?

  • John C

    The Dirty Digger was respected and feared, Cincinnatus, but never admired.
    You must elaborate on Rupert’s British newspapers spanning the spectrum.
    I can’t comment on the partisanship of New York Times or the Washington Post but surely you cannot equate these newspapers with the misinformation and hysteria of Fox News — this is just too post modern — you might as well say a Donald Duck comic has the same literary merit as War and Peace.
    The real story does not change — the US has an election next year and Australia can go to an election any time in the next 2 years. In both countries, Murdoch is still a man of influence.
    And yes, newspapers are in decline but Murdoch still owns satellite and cable services.
    Still, Britain and Australia could review the cross ownership laws. It may turn Murdoch from a media mogul to a media minnow.
    Now that would be a good thing wouldn’t it W B Picklesworth?

  • Cincinnatus

    John C: By my eye, The Times is a fairly moderate paper. The Sun is hysterically right-wing, though, yes? I can’t say anything about his other papers, as I don’t know their allegiances. But this is really a moot discussion. Britain’s private press has always been openly biased, with papers publicly aligning with specific political parties and carefully furthering the agenda of specific parties. There are plenty of left/Labour/liberal papers as well. This is what the British public knows and expects, so it’s not really fair to criticize Murdoch’s British papers for their bias. The BBC is the only media outlet in the UK that even approaches something like neutrality, and I personally don’t think it succeeds all that well (I happen to believe that neutrality/objectivity is impossible). I’d be more inclined to critique the general hysteria that distinguishes British newspapers as little better than tabloids.

    As for Fox News, again, I don’t watch it. I’m not aware of its promulgation of misinformation, though I’ve never heard anything to suggest that its penchant for misinformation is any greater than other prominent media outlets. Do you have specific examples in mind or some kind of statistical analysis? As for hysteria, that is a function of the 24-hour cable news cycle more than anything else. Anyway, prior to the 20th century, all American newspapers were yellower than anything that goes on in the world of cable. Thus, while I see the problem, I just don’t identify Fox as the prime culprit. And yes, the New York Times and the Washington Post are well known for their leftist biases, and the first paper in particular has found itself in trouble a few times in recent years for its bias and unscrupulous reporting standards. Honestly, I just don’t see where there is a coherent metric that would allow me to claim that, say, MSNBC is more virtuous than Fox when it comes to serious and honest reporting. In short, Murdoch is just one among many morally ambiguous corporate media moguls.

    As for the rest, I have no idea what your references to American and Australian elections have to do with anything. Obama firmly won an American presidential election when Fox was at the height of its influence, so I don’t really see your point. There will always be “men of influence” in journalism on both sides of the spectrum who seek their way in electoral outcomes. Doesn’t mean they get it, and doesn’t mean they must be targeted for…whatever you think they should be targeted for.

  • Cincinnatus

    John C: By my eye, The Times is a fairly moderate paper. The Sun is hysterically right-wing, though, yes? I can’t say anything about his other papers, as I don’t know their allegiances. But this is really a moot discussion. Britain’s private press has always been openly biased, with papers publicly aligning with specific political parties and carefully furthering the agenda of specific parties. There are plenty of left/Labour/liberal papers as well. This is what the British public knows and expects, so it’s not really fair to criticize Murdoch’s British papers for their bias. The BBC is the only media outlet in the UK that even approaches something like neutrality, and I personally don’t think it succeeds all that well (I happen to believe that neutrality/objectivity is impossible). I’d be more inclined to critique the general hysteria that distinguishes British newspapers as little better than tabloids.

    As for Fox News, again, I don’t watch it. I’m not aware of its promulgation of misinformation, though I’ve never heard anything to suggest that its penchant for misinformation is any greater than other prominent media outlets. Do you have specific examples in mind or some kind of statistical analysis? As for hysteria, that is a function of the 24-hour cable news cycle more than anything else. Anyway, prior to the 20th century, all American newspapers were yellower than anything that goes on in the world of cable. Thus, while I see the problem, I just don’t identify Fox as the prime culprit. And yes, the New York Times and the Washington Post are well known for their leftist biases, and the first paper in particular has found itself in trouble a few times in recent years for its bias and unscrupulous reporting standards. Honestly, I just don’t see where there is a coherent metric that would allow me to claim that, say, MSNBC is more virtuous than Fox when it comes to serious and honest reporting. In short, Murdoch is just one among many morally ambiguous corporate media moguls.

    As for the rest, I have no idea what your references to American and Australian elections have to do with anything. Obama firmly won an American presidential election when Fox was at the height of its influence, so I don’t really see your point. There will always be “men of influence” in journalism on both sides of the spectrum who seek their way in electoral outcomes. Doesn’t mean they get it, and doesn’t mean they must be targeted for…whatever you think they should be targeted for.

  • John C

    It’s not often a media organization overtly sponsors a political party as Fox did with the Tea Party, nor is it usual for a media organization to hire potential presidential candidates. There were a number of Tea Party candidates elected in the midterms so Murdoch is still a power to reckoned with.
    Sure, there are ‘men of influence’, not just in newspapers but in cable, satellite, free to air television and the internet but the agenda of the media mogul is usually rightwing — lower taxes, smash the unions and cut government spending.
    I doubt whether the New York Times and MSNBC are advocating a Social Democratic agenda. In fact, if the proportion of Republicans to Democrat politicians invited on to “Meet the Press” is any guide then MSNBC is definitely rightwing.

  • John C

    It’s not often a media organization overtly sponsors a political party as Fox did with the Tea Party, nor is it usual for a media organization to hire potential presidential candidates. There were a number of Tea Party candidates elected in the midterms so Murdoch is still a power to reckoned with.
    Sure, there are ‘men of influence’, not just in newspapers but in cable, satellite, free to air television and the internet but the agenda of the media mogul is usually rightwing — lower taxes, smash the unions and cut government spending.
    I doubt whether the New York Times and MSNBC are advocating a Social Democratic agenda. In fact, if the proportion of Republicans to Democrat politicians invited on to “Meet the Press” is any guide then MSNBC is definitely rightwing.

  • Cincinnatus

    John C: I think you seriously overestimate the influence Fox News has upon election results. Seriously. The fact that Tea Party candidates were successful in the last midterms does not demonstrate the influence of Fox; correlation does not equal causation.

    A few “minor” fact-checks are in order as well:
    -The Tea Party is not a “political party” or even a centralized organization of any kind. It’s a loose label signifying a collection of Americans who share a similar but vague set of grievances; it has also been co-opted to some extent by the G.O.P. for electoral purposes, but it can neither be endorsed nor “sponsored”–whatever you mean by that.

    -MSNBC is most certainly not right-wing. All of its talking heads are self-described, obvious progressives who spend quite a lot of time savaging Republicans and Fox News. I have no problem with this, but it is what it is–biased.

    -If by claiming that “the media mogul is usually right-wing,” you are referring exclusively to Murdoch, then you’re correct. But if you’re referring to media moguls as a class, you’re absurdly wrong. The Washington Post, New York Times, and MSNBC, for instance, openly advocate against “lower taxes, smash[ing] the unions, and cut[ting] government spending”–at least in the portions of their papers and broadcasts dedicated to opinion and not mere coverage. Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, etc.–do none of these folks ring a bell? Sure, they incorporate a token pseudo-conservative or two on staff for appearances sake–just as Fox keeps Greta van Susteren on staff–but you have to be living on a rock to play this game of weighing which media outlets are most partisan and concluding that Fox is the only villain here. In fact, the primary reason Fox is so successful is because it is the only television station broadcasting right-wing/populist views, while progressive opinions get quite a lot of airtime on a diverse selection of other stations. Meanwhile, all of these stations compete to be as sensational as possible to maintain relevance in our ADD-afflicted culture.

    Do you even live in the United States? Some of these factual errors lead me to believe you’re commenting from a foreign perspective with what is clearly an incomplete notion of the reality of American media.

  • Cincinnatus

    John C: I think you seriously overestimate the influence Fox News has upon election results. Seriously. The fact that Tea Party candidates were successful in the last midterms does not demonstrate the influence of Fox; correlation does not equal causation.

    A few “minor” fact-checks are in order as well:
    -The Tea Party is not a “political party” or even a centralized organization of any kind. It’s a loose label signifying a collection of Americans who share a similar but vague set of grievances; it has also been co-opted to some extent by the G.O.P. for electoral purposes, but it can neither be endorsed nor “sponsored”–whatever you mean by that.

    -MSNBC is most certainly not right-wing. All of its talking heads are self-described, obvious progressives who spend quite a lot of time savaging Republicans and Fox News. I have no problem with this, but it is what it is–biased.

    -If by claiming that “the media mogul is usually right-wing,” you are referring exclusively to Murdoch, then you’re correct. But if you’re referring to media moguls as a class, you’re absurdly wrong. The Washington Post, New York Times, and MSNBC, for instance, openly advocate against “lower taxes, smash[ing] the unions, and cut[ting] government spending”–at least in the portions of their papers and broadcasts dedicated to opinion and not mere coverage. Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, etc.–do none of these folks ring a bell? Sure, they incorporate a token pseudo-conservative or two on staff for appearances sake–just as Fox keeps Greta van Susteren on staff–but you have to be living on a rock to play this game of weighing which media outlets are most partisan and concluding that Fox is the only villain here. In fact, the primary reason Fox is so successful is because it is the only television station broadcasting right-wing/populist views, while progressive opinions get quite a lot of airtime on a diverse selection of other stations. Meanwhile, all of these stations compete to be as sensational as possible to maintain relevance in our ADD-afflicted culture.

    Do you even live in the United States? Some of these factual errors lead me to believe you’re commenting from a foreign perspective with what is clearly an incomplete notion of the reality of American media.

  • Cincinnatus

    living under* a rock

  • Cincinnatus

    living under* a rock

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    John C,
    There’s a new book that has just been released that speaks to media bias from a social science perspective. I’ve ordered it, but it has not arrived. From its reviews I’ve gleaned some information that doesn’t bear out your assumptions. FoxNews isn’t particularly biased. Particular programs are more so. The New York Times? I’m curious, but I suspect that they will be considerably more biased than Fox.

    None of which is to say that Fox is a great station. But it is to say that it is the object of 1) irrational ire; or 2) an attempt to delegitimize non-liberal viewpoints. Some of both probably.

    As for the cross ownership laws that you mention, I would tend to prefer many different owners of ideologically diverse news sources. I would also tend to prefer that the government have absolutely no control over any of them.

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    John C,
    There’s a new book that has just been released that speaks to media bias from a social science perspective. I’ve ordered it, but it has not arrived. From its reviews I’ve gleaned some information that doesn’t bear out your assumptions. FoxNews isn’t particularly biased. Particular programs are more so. The New York Times? I’m curious, but I suspect that they will be considerably more biased than Fox.

    None of which is to say that Fox is a great station. But it is to say that it is the object of 1) irrational ire; or 2) an attempt to delegitimize non-liberal viewpoints. Some of both probably.

    As for the cross ownership laws that you mention, I would tend to prefer many different owners of ideologically diverse news sources. I would also tend to prefer that the government have absolutely no control over any of them.

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    I should probably note the name of the book shouldn’t I? “Left Turn” by Timothy Groseclose.

  • W.B. Picklesworth

    I should probably note the name of the book shouldn’t I? “Left Turn” by Timothy Groseclose.


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