Virtual Voices

Glee over Murdoch troubles

Media

PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland-Glee is not just an American TV show, it is also the emotion many people feel and express toward the trouble Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is having, since they consider Murdoch's properties a blight on their formerly pristine media landscape.

There are two strains running through the phone-hacking scandal that monopolizes much of the media attention in the UK. One is the attitude of the mainstream media types who are frustrated by the success of Murdoch properties, most notably Fox News Channel in America (to which I contribute). They see Murdoch's troubles with the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid as an opportunity to destroy the Murdoch empire, which they have been unable to do by competing with it.

The second strain is legal. After the apparent suicide of a former News of the World reporter and unprecedented resignations of high-ranking officers at Scotland Yard, whose allegedly paid connections with News of the World are at the center of parliamentary and police inquiries, Labour and Tory politicians are positioning themselves for major political advantage.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed the Justice Department is looking into allegations that employees of News International, a division of News Corp, hacked, or attempted to hack, into the phones of 9/11 victims. Several Democratic members of Congress and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., have called for such an investigation.

The response to this by the British and American mainstream media reeks of hypocrisy. Whatever one thinks of the morality of paying for news stories, the British press, under Labour and Tory governments, have been doing it for years. Fleet Street was built on cash for gossip. American media are slightly more sophisticated in pursuing "exclusive" stories.

There are other forms of "payment" U.S. media make to politicians-mostly liberals-with whom they agree. They repeat the talking points of Democrats or refuse to challenge statements that are factually incorrect. They frequently fawn over people they like and challenge those they don't like. Call it a political version of an "in-kind" contribution.

People who broke the law by hacking into phones should be punished, but this is more about liberal attempts to destroy Fox News, which liberals hate because it communicates ideas, issues, and opinions that were mostly unavailable, or ignored, until the network launched in 1996. Fox News has not been implicated in the British phone hacking, but that won't stop its enemies from trying to make the connection. MSNBC's Martin Bashir compared Murdoch to Jack Abramoff and mobster James "Whitey" Bulger. There were similar over-the-top comments by other broadcast "journalists."

People can debate Fox's slogan "we report, you decide," but the liberal mantra might more accurately be stated, "we distort, we decide."

The faux "virgins" in big media like to portray themselves as "above" the standards and practices of media owned by Murdoch, but past behavior exposes them as two-faced. Examples: In 2003, The New York Times reported, "Michael Jackson struck a deal with CBS to be paid in effect an additional $1 million for both an entertainment special . . . and his interview on 60 Minutes . . . part of yearlong negotiations." The news magazine denied paying Jackson for the interview, but an associate of Jackson's said at the time the deal included the 60 Minutes appearance.

According to one of Casey Anthony's attorneys, ABC News paid $200,000 for photos of her dead daughter, Caylee. CBS News got off with a mere $20,000 "licensing fee" paid to Caylee's grandparents.

When hero passenger Jasper Schuringa helped subdue the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on a flight to Detroit and later snapped cell phone photos of the suspect being escorted off the plane in wrist restraints, CNN paid Schuringa a "licensing fee" for the images. CBS and ABC reportedly bid for the photos, according to TVNewser.com, ultimately earning Schuringa $18,000.

If tabloids paid British police for information, then that would be a violation of journalistic ethics, if they still exist. American journalists had better look to their own motivations before casting stones at Rupert Murdoch.

Whatever happens in Britain, Fox News will survive and prosper. And that will be a cause for glee to those who dislike reporting that comes from a single ideological worldview.

© 2011 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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