Murdoch In Crisis

The internet connections are flaky here but the messages are coming across loud and clear from London. Murdoch is trouble. Deep trouble.Few signs for him at the end of their tunnel called ‘Phone Hacking’. He,Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson must wish they never met Glen Mulcaire the footballer turned private detective with a contacts book to die for!

The twists and turns of the collapse as they have developed over the last eleven days are scarcely conceivable to one who has grown up used to the pervasive and ever increasing influence of ‘Roop’ on British journalism and the media.(BBC journos losing their jobs might remember that Sky’s revenue in the UK is now getting on for double the amount raised by the BBC licence fee as BBC DG Thompson pointed out in his Mactaggart last year).

Writes John Mair…

Rupert did appear to be an untouchable-the Sun God of Wapping.I well recall going to hear Alan Rusbridger speak just as ‘Hackgate’ first appeared in the Guardian in 2009. At the chit chat cocktail afterwards,a very senior figure in British journalism told me it was a ‘non story’.So,too, remember did more recently the revered figure of Donald Trelford-former Observer Editor and Professor of Journalism .So much for the news values of the great and good of British hackery.

The Murdoch Empire is on its knees thanks mainly to the dogged work on one investigative journalist-Nick Davies the Guardian Special Correspondent-digging away at the story for years. Salute him! Nick and his editor Alan Rusbridger did not let setbacks and duff investigations by Scotland Yard and others put them off the scent of getting to the truth of the whole rotten barrel not the ‘one rogue reporter’ that was the News of the World newsroom. It was and is a classic piece of investigative journalism. Find the fox, chase it through the woods and thickets of open countryside-rather apposite in view of the importance of the Woodstock/Chipping Norton set in this whole saga-up hill and down dale and don’t give up until the fox is firmly bagged. It took cussedness (a quality that many good investigators have),sheer stamina, courage(especially on the part of the Guardian editors sticking with the story)and building contacts and building momentum for their story. It is lone wolf journalism but then the best often is. Davies and Rusbridger deserve all the gongs going at the various press awards later this year if the judges can defy Rupert,bite their lips and so do.My students of journalism can learn much from the Davies modus operandi.

The death of Investigative journalism has been much exaggerated. It is alive and well as thirty authors-ranging from Donal Macintyre,Mark Daly and Paul Kenyon to eminent professors of journalism-explore in my and Richard Keeble’s latest edited collection INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM;DEAD OR ALIVE? to be published by Arima in September with a launch at London’s Frontline Club. This book coming out of another BBC College of Journalism/Coventry Conversations conference in March of this year could not be more timely. With Wikileaks,FIFA and the disgrace of Jack Warner, MP’s expenses,Tomlinson and now the fall(or at least the denting of)Sun King Murdoch, investigative journalism is going through a purple patch and in rude health. Long may that be. It keeps them all honest. Perhaps ‘Roop’ might invest some of his Sky profits in some good investigations. It would pay dividends.

John Mair is a senior lecturer in journalism at Coventry University.He invented the Coventry Conversations and is co-editor of INVESTIGATVE JOURNALISM;DEAD OR ALIVE(to be published by Arima September 2011).He is in Guyana on a Coventry Applied Research Fellowship.


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