The Short Answer: Not In This World
Update: This just in! News of the World will close permanently Sunday 7/10/2011. Will the amputation save the patient?
There are companies we love to love. For instance, the little brands up against the big guys, like Ben & Jerry’s in the early days and Stonyfield Farm today. Or the ones that do enough good for people to forgive them just about anything, like Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods Market. Or the ones that have engendered enormous loyalty over time, like Apple and Volkswagen.
Then there are the companies we love to hate. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is one of them. Whatever you feel about his individual brands, like The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and Harper Collins, there is little doubt that Rupert Murdoch is in a class by himself when it comes to controversy and passions.
So when his flagship UK newspaper, News of the World, was found to have hacked into cell phones of relatives of a murdered teen-aged girl as well as soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no wonder that virtually everyone in the UK reacted with outraged calls for investigations.
What is coming out of this most recent scandal is a picture of a society whose police and government are both cosy with and cowed by a powerful media conglomerate. Celebrities and politicians whose phones may have been hacked have long criticised police for failing to properly investigate and for being too close to the media. It’s interesting that when a similar scandal broke several years ago about alleged hacking into phones of 3000 celebrities and politicians, the reaction was much less extreme.
But recent outrage has prompted both investigations and public pressure. The news executive at the center of the scandal, Rebekah Brooks, is under pressure to resign, and formal legal and police actions are already being discussed. Advertisers are pulling out and media buyers are warning their clients to steer clear of the controversial publication.
As always, the root cause of the outrage isn’t Brooks, or the reporters who hacked the phones, but rather Rupert Murdoch’s corporate culture, one that cultivated an anything-for-a-story mentality and a long term perception of high-handedness. As Carl Bernstein says in Newsweek: “In place of [the] journalistic ideal, the enduring Murdoch ethic substitutes gossip, sensationalism, and manufactured controversy... More than anyone, Murdoch invented and established this culture... where you do whatever it takes to get the story, take no prisoners, destroy the competition, and the end will justify the means.”
It is now Rupert Murdoch himself who is under fire. As we’ve seen over and over again: Crime isn’t the only thing that doesn’t pay, arrogance is right up there. —KDP
Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine is a dynamic and experienced speaker on public relations and social media measurement. Click here for the schedule of Katie’s upcoming speaking engagements.