Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rupert Murdoch's outer limits

At times in the past, I have wondered what it must be like to be Rupert Murdoch. If money and power are what makes this world turn then a case can be made that he is the most influential man on the planet.

Murdoch is the chairman and CEO of News Corp. The company has vast holdings when it comes to the media, and whenever there is a ripple in his world, we should all take notice.

This has been happening lately to News Corp.’s tabloids in Great Britain. In recent months, a scandal erupted in which it appears members of the now-defunct 'News of the World' tabloid hacked into the voice mails of people to swipe information.

These tactics were not just limited to public figures. The most horrendous example included the alleged hacking of the voice mail of a parent whose child had been murdered. I cannot imagine how awful it must be to lose a child in such a manner, and the tactics used by the tabloid to get a scoop outraged that nation.

Since then, News Corp. officials have been on the defensive, primarily by groveling to the British government and the public. Several apologies have been made, but it appears this situation will be investigated for the foreseeable future.

So, how does this impact us here in America? Maybe not so much right now, but it does open the door to some interesting speculation.

After all, News Corp also owns some major players on the American media scene. The Fox News Channel, 'The Wall Street Journal,' and the 'New York Post' all fall under the umbrella of this massive company.

Therefore, a reasonable person might wonder if the tactics used in Great Britain have also been used here. At this point, there is no evidence this has happened, but when one crack emerges in a large organization, several more usually follow.

The bottom line is the tactics used by News Corp. in Great Britain is an example of the brutal competition that sometimes takes place in the media.

We live in a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week media world, and the competition to get the next big story can be jawdropping. We are kidding ourselves if we believe that major media outlets do not bend the rules sometimes when getting some stories.

Of course, there is a big difference between pushing the envelope and using the tactics the 'News of the World' used. In fact, pushing the envelope can be healthy when it comes to serving the public.

Media competition can be especially helpful to communities like Coffee County. Multiple media outlets in our county guarantee competition for important stories.

If the county only had one media source, then it would be tempting for that outlet to become lazy and fat. What would be their motivation to go out and pursue stories that serve the public interest? My guess is they would give in to the temptation to sit back and rake in the advertising dollars while not doing much else.

As for Murdoch, I do not spend much time wondering about him these days. In a sense, his organization is sitting in a pot of boiling oil and many want to turn the heat up even higher.

His tabloids in Great Britain took plenty of cheap shots over the years, and it appears many are relishing the opportunity to even the score. Even in the hyper-competitive media world, it is important to treat people with respect.

After all, lives and fortunes can change with a snap of the fingers. I sure would hate to face a pack of angry wolves if I was plummeting back down to earth.

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