Saturday, 9 July 2011

I have never read

"The News of the World" - at least I do not believe I have.
The hall of residence I lived in while a student at university in London bought the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian for students to read if they wished to do so. It was my morning habit to rapidly read the major stories in each one. Occasionally I would have time for a little more - such as the editorial - but not often.
Most of my fellow students, also from overseas, did not bother to read the papers at all. The few UK students would glance at them but, like me, there was not a lot of time for reading newspapers. We were not like under-graduates. We had to get to lectures, schools, hospitals and the like. We were not there for student life. We were there to learn, research, write a thesis etc.
When I had the opportunity however I found the standard of journalism a good deal higher than it was where I had come from.
Despite the present turmoil with the News of the World I suspect that journalism in the UK is still a good deal better than it is in my home state.
We used to have three newspapers from the same stable in this state. There was "the Advertiser", "the News" and the "Truth". The Advertiser was a broadsheet back then. The other two were tabloids.
The Truth, our version of the News of the World only rather worse, was the first to go. It had specialised in gossip and gossip was becoming more freely available elsewhere. The News went next. It was the late afternoon paper, sometimes with a second edition if something worthy of a new headline broke. Like the Truth it would be padded out with much gossip.
At that point Murdoch made the Advertiser a tabloid - and down graded it still further so that it is now rather like a cross between the Truth, the News and the old Advertiser. It is not a good newspaper - but we get it because my father prefers to read about local issues rather be forced to look at the television news.
We also get "The Australian". This is our national newspaper - although there are actually state editions which allow things like the publication of a name before the courts in one state but not another etc. It is probably the most serious of our newspapers. It carries some articles from other international papers owned by the Murdoch stable. There is an attempt at some serious analysis of the state of affairs across the country.
Is it as good as the best of the overseas papers? I think opinions would vary on that one. It is a better paper than the Advertiser but that is not in itself a recommendation.
My father has been reading newspapers for almost eighty years. He has seen a lot of newsprint in his time. He is of the belief that we are often ill-served by the news media. The strength of that belief has grown over the years.
My own job provides me with information from an enormous variety of sources. I am often not free to say anything about the information given to me. Nevertheless I am aware that all too often what I learn from people who are immediately involved is very different from the stories given out by the news media.
I wonder about the folding of the News of the World. Around two hundred people have lost their jobs. Most of them will be innocent of any wrong doing. Circulation was going down and the days of the paper were probably numbered anyway. Murdoch used it to get his global empire underway. It has no value for him now. He will probably turn the Sun into a seven day a week paper and pick up some readers from the News of the World there - after all it has a similar readership.
Murdoch is possibly the most powerful man in the world. He controls far too much of the world's media not to be powerful. He has overseen the demise of more than one Australian government despite the fact he no longer lives here.
If the Sky deal goes through Murdoch will not suffer at all from the folding of the News of the World - indeed it will be to his advantage. I just hope the Sky deal folds too. We should be governed by the governments we elect - not by a media mogul.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I really don't think that closing just the one newspaper is any kind of solution to the problem - just a diversion for the public. I would be very surprised if the wrongdoing was confined to the one title.

I just hope that the television deal is squashed - I don't really want the hassle of changing our supplier!

I wonder if I ought to be paranoid - this is the second time I have tried to leave a comment - the first one had the title of the paper in full, and just disappeared into the ether for no reason whatsover that I could see.

JO said...

I remember reading The Australian when I was over there - I felt it gave me the news I needed. But I have nothing else Ozzie to compare it with.

I know the News of the World will metamorphose into something similar. And it is, truly, terrible that innocent people have lost their jobs - and not (yet) the people at the top who must carry some responsibility.

But - the outrage over their behaviour is palpable here. We are sentimental (at times) over our deserving vulnerable (I know, hints of Victorian values here - let's not talk about the undeserving) - and fiercely protective of them. And so we rise in horror at the suggestion that creeping, like some sort of tapeworm, inside families at a time of trauma is remotely ethical, or in the public interest. They throw up their hands in horror now, mea culpa, but their distress lies in being caught.

Closing the paper doesn't provide answers. It may even provide the opportunity for a load of computers with incriminating emails to disappear. It doesn't stop Murdoch trying to take over the media world.

But it makes a statement acknowledging that this behaviour is wrong. That we are furious with investigators who behave in this way. The point may not lie in the demise of the newspaper itself, but in the meaning we give to its passing.