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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Mainstream Journalism Kept NOTW Going: Or Getting Away With Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Only second to the joys of a Pulitzer or a Peabody, is the delight journalists feel when the mighty get their comeuppance.

As News International and Rupert Murdoch get theirs, newsies everywhere are raising a glass of fine old Chateau Schadenfreude (2011 vintage).

It gets worse (or better, depending)...

Since News International is a US-registered corporation, it could be charged in America too.

If it can be proven that Murdoch executives allowed its journalists to bribe British police in pursuit of scoops, this would be in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to an interview on the BBC, this could put Rupert Murdoch in the dock in New York where News International has its headquarters.

It's being called British journalism's version of the "Arab Spring" - a powerful and once unassailable power has gone too far and is now paying a considerable price.

The phone hacking scandal, the complicity of senior managers and the encouragement of boards of directors and shareholders allowed this to continue for years.

But truth to tell, we are all complicit in these dubious practices. We hesitate to be critical of fellow scribes, even if we think their practices are silly or worse. Under the banner of free speech, we permit all sorts of practices to continue even if we silently disapprove.

And who among us didn't chuckle at the over-the-top headlines in The Sun, the NOTW, the New York Daily News or the New York Post. We admire them for their brass and their willingness to be shocking...something the rest of us wouldn't or couldn't do.

News International's journalism practices aren't confined to print. Fox News allows its hosts to express some of the most scurrilous rumors and remarks. The same values that corrupted Fleet Street tabs have also spread their disdain for responsible journalism on this side of the Atlantic as well. And we still don't say a word.

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As of last Friday, Denise Donlon is out as executive director of CBC Radio. Chris Boyce is Radio's program director and he will take over her responsibilities.

Donlon was appointed by former head of English service Richard Stursberg in 2008, but since he was fired last year, much of his management structure is slowly being changed by his replacement, Kirstine Stewart.

There are some similarities here with the recently removed President and CEO of NPR, Vivienne Schiller who was fired in March.

Schiller, like Donlon came into the job from the private sector. Both were expected to replicate the successes they achieved in their previous posts - Schiller at and Donlon at MuchMusic and Sony.

Both achieved those limited goals: Schiller made into one of the premier new media sites in the US; Donlon was less successful, but made controversial changes to CBC Radio's music offerings by downgrading classical music and accentuating Canadian pop and indie music. But both executives failed to see that NPR and CBC Radio are more than a website or a music playlist.

Those changes and others did not please CBC Radio's core audience. That displeasure has not been lost on the Canadian regulator, the CRTC, which has had more than an earful from angry listeners.

It is scheduled to hold license renewal hearings for the CBC this September.*


Update: CRTC hearings for the CBC's license renewal have been postponed till June 2012. The ostensible reason is "impending budget cuts," according to Minister Jason Kenney and it would presumably unfair to hold hearings until the extent of the cuts is known.



  2. Not sure Denise was solely responsible for changes to Radio Two. My impression is many of those changes were underway before she arrived at CBC. But I stand to be corrected....
    Not sure her replacement is necessarily planning on changing that direction either. Difficult to read the tea leaves on this one.