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article imageOp-Ed: Union says News betrayed Sun staff ‘for doing their jobs’?

By Paul Wallis     Feb 12, 2012 in Business
Sydney - In an unprecedented outburst which does nothing for the credibility of the journalistic profession, the UK's National Union of Journalists has accused News International of “throwing arrested journalists to the wolves”.
The arrested journalists have been charged with corrupt practices.
This sleaze keeps getting sleazier. Reports now indicate that the police are spreading their net wider in investigations regarding News journalists.
According to the BBC:
The BBC understands picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, reporter John Sturgis and associate editor Geoff Webster were arrested as part of the Operation Elveden probe into payments to police.
The arrests marked a widening out of the operation to include the investigation of evidence in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers.
The Sun has been defended by both Rupert Murdoch and its editor. The ongoing investigations have exposed a culture which to put it mildly has exceeded the expectations of the most cynical. Tabloid media is generally despised among journalists with good reason.
The News of the World revelations were apparently only the beginning. It's starting to look like the police investigations, which include investigation of literally hundreds of millions of e-mails are exposing a very different, but equally sleazy, picture of the true depths of tabloid culture.
Anybody aware of the basically animalistic culture in the Neanderthal zone of UK media may not be surprised to a great extent by these revelations. Just about everybody, however, will be surprised by the National Union of Journalists UK’s comments on the subject.
The NUJ, for whatever reason, has effectively accused News Corp of staging a witch hunt to save its own skin. The union's logic however, leaves something to be desired. This statement was made on the NUJ website:
…If that means shafting people who have simply been doing their jobs, as it was demanded of them on the Sun and other titles, clearly Murdoch has given the green light to do so.”
Obviously, the union is attempting to protect its members, but this is unarguably not the way to do it.
Does the union mean:
That the journalists were carrying out corrupt acts that they were told to do by management?
That the fact that they were told to do these things by management therefore excuses them of any charge of corruption or engagement in corrupt practices?
That management should overlook corrupt practices?
That management somehow has the power to influence police investigations to the extent that people are charged or not charged according to the wishes of News Corp?
Rather more seriously, the statement also indicates that the union is apparently aware of the internal situation at The Sun. Does the NUJ have information specifically indicating that journalists were instructed to carry out illegal acts?
One of the great mysteries of Old Media is the apparent belief that nobody has any right to question its actions including lawmakers and law enforcement agencies as well as the public. The Sun didn't even see fit to put on its front page any comments about the arrests. See if you can find any mention of the arrests on the website, because I couldn't.
(Note:There may be a legitimate reason for this – under UK law, commenting on a matter before the court may be inappropriate. The Sun could, however, comment on its own position.)
Rupert Murdoch has a choice. The "man overboard" response may be the best possible move in terms of ridding News Corp of the stench which these stories are generating. People in other corporations have been fired for a lot less than potentially criminally compromising an entire corporate structure. It may send the right message to the right people and prevent what appears to be an encroaching necrosis of News Corp.
Murdoch is a realist. If it's a choice between business and individual people, his obligation is to the business, and he doesn't need to be told that. He built News Corp from the equivalent of a small town hick newspaper, and it's very unlikely that he is exactly overjoyed with the current situation. He may be overqualified as a head kicker, but in this case nobody will be wondering why.
End of an era, at long last?
The underlying news here is that a previously invulnerable media culture is now disintegrating. It's no understatement to say that this may be the beginning of a new era in media, however accidental. Tabloid culture was hated for decades in the UK, but nobody could lay a finger on it. Now, it's visibly falling to bits. The case law alone related to the various allegations has the potential to change global media forever.
Which leaves those of us in New Media with one basic question-How long is it going to take this damn dinosaur to die?
If it wasn't for US politics, Wall Street and the amateur Circus of Morons known as Euro zone financial management, the truly gaga state of global media would definitely be the biggest news story on Earth at the moment. Those journalists are innocent until proven guilty, but the culture with which they are associated is guilty beyond any doubt.
The pity of it is that this can't possibly be the end of this nauseating story. There will, inevitably, be more sickening examples of what goes on at the bottom of the dunghill. There is no point in getting outraged any more. The only working solution is that the tabloid culture must go, and the only way to get rid of it is to put it out of business.
There's quite enough sleaze in this world without the world's media acting as a global publicist for criminals, insane politicians and megalomaniac corporations. Between blatantly biased reporting of political events, alleged corruption of public officials, and apparently endless supply of the tackiest possible stories imaginable, Old Media will be no loss whatsoever.
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
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