Friday, July 8, 2011

Watching the swift death of a newspaper

For the last three days I have bought three different morning newspapers and picked up the free Evening Standard each afternoon. And each edition's front page contained another revelation about the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World hacking into the voicemail of various Britons, including a murder victim, families of victims of the July 7, 2007, London bombings and others.

Ryan reading the July 7 edition of the Evening Standard, featuring the latest revelation about the News of the World scandal. As Ryan read that in the BBC's lobby, the news broke that the NoW paper will cease publishing after Sunday.

Today, we were touring the BBC when news broke that News of the World will publish its last edition this Sunday.

It should be noted that most of the improprieties seemed to have taken place between 2003 and 2007, and much of the staff has turned over since then. So it is unfortunate that this current crop of journalists is paying a price for the sins of their predecessors.

But with a steady stream of revelations and public condemnations published by the News of the World's competitors, it has been like watching the journalistic version of a car driving off a cliff. And it's stunning to think that it was completely self-inflicted.

In Kentucky, we've been slammed with news of cuts and layoffs at newspapers -- plus the closure of the Kentucky Post -- because of decrees from corporate headquarters as executives try to cut costs.

But the News of the World saga is on the opposite side of the spectrum in which fierce competition and the thirst for readers, advertisers and buzz apparently fueled a get-the-scoop-at-ALL-costs approach.

As a result, its epitaph will read: Here lies a newspaper investigated for paying off police for tips, that apparently sanctioned the hacking of personal messages of private citizens, and that touched off a political firestorm among public officials and media executives alike. And as it breached the journalism ethics code and potentially the law, the paper also broke a cardinal rule of journalism by becoming the news instead of covering it.

For those reasons, I didn't think the News of the World could ultimately survive. But I didn't think my trip to London would outlive it.

No comments:

Post a Comment