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article imageOp-Ed: Closing an open sewer – The end of the News of the World

By Paul Wallis     Jul 7, 2011 in World
London - I’d been waiting for a Murdoch move regarding the News of the World. I knew News would never tolerate the revelations regarding the phone hacks of missing children, dead soldiers and other revolting acts. This is the right move for the right reasons.
Let’s start with the fact that those people accused are innocent until proven guilty. These allegations are still, at this stage, allegations, despite prior issues. You can’t actually arrest and charge a pattern of media behaviour, unfortunately, but in this case the verdict has been passed and carried out.
For years now, the more self-righteous in the media, myself included, have been screaming for some sort of limit to the sheer insanity of tabloid media. It’s fitting that the major operator of this news format has taken an axe to the right place at the right time. The News of the World was sleazy at best, and nothing less than disgusting at worst.
For “insanity”, how would you beat hacking the phones of dead little girls? What would you expect to find? What sort of mentality does these things? Far more worryingly, how does it become a natural source of journalistic information? If there’s such a thing as “IT-based forensic necrophilia”, this would be the first public instance of it.
Editorial policies on scum sheets like the News of the World , naturally, can’t be the same as real news. It’s a different market. The stock in trade is basically sleaze, real or implied. A headline like Dinosaur and sports star in love triangle on oil rig or Alien armpit fetishists strike again in New Jersey wouldn’t have surprised anyone. It’s not news, but it sells.
That’s always been the problem. The line has never really been drawn before. Now it has, and it’s been drawn where it needs to be drawn- Right on the line of criminal behaviour and invasion of privacy. These two areas, which have been the subject of suits against paparazzi and other “investigative” media practices like wiring up someone’s neighbourhood for instant remote video and sound footage, have never before had any sort of corporate input.
The image of the tabloid media has turned into a sort of sick picture of a horde of unhygienic middle aged male muck rakers/boozers slinking in to editors’ offices or meeting them in bars with as much dirt as they can find. That image, ironically, actually protected News of the World at first. The initial News of the World revelations about celebrity hacks simply confirmed everybody’s views. After all, these were only celebrities, so the real conversation on the subject turned to phone security.
Even News Corp, which tends to be very alert for any mud (euphemism) sticking to its brand, obviously didn’t realize the full depth of the problem, hence the basically press-release based response to the initial allegations. That situation dragged on for months, and at most may have caused a few PR people to stir in their sleep.
In contrast, it’s only taken a few days for the Murdochs to pull the plug on the News of the World after the new revelations. Most of the media, including News Corp’s old rival Fairfax and The [i]Sydney Morning Herald[/i] has called this a “shock move”, but it looks like the gun was already loaded with a bullet in the chamber. In those few days, News Corp has put together a death certificate complete with charitable donations (quite right and about time some class got into the act) and an obviously as angry as sincere apology to those who deserve it.
The good news for global media is this- This is the first time that any major corporate news organization since the days of William Randolph Hearst has sent a clear message about what’s acceptable and what’s not. The whole idea of news has become contaminated with the “no limits to the sleaze” concept. Information, if any, is likely to be a bra size or perhaps Charlie Sheen, assuming there’s a difference.
It’s about time some hygiene got into the tabloids, and it’s very apt that the Murdochs have made their point so thoroughly. This may not be the end of the tabloid excesses and outfalls of non-news, but they’ve given the world’s media a good How To manual on how to shut down these sewers if required. That alone may make news a respectable medium again.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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