It’s like a train wreck in slow motion, the Rupert Murdoch crisis. The crash seems to go on and on and on. Now FBI is involved, and every Murdoch-owned entity will be put under the microscope.
This is not just a crisis involving the now defunct News of the World, nor even Murdoch and his empire. This is a crisis that affects all of journalism itself, particularly tabloid journalism. But what about Murdoch’s crown jewel, the Wall Street Journal? That venerable institution cannot escape this without more scrutiny and a close eye on how they deal with this.
With that in mind, they made big mistake number one with today’s article on Murdoch’s handling of the crisis. The article, which quite clearly serves as a voice for Murdoch’s public statements regarding the comments. Even with that, it seems to reveal a soft touch on the crisis that is not typical of the publications treatment of other companies in deep doo doo, such as BP.
In the story, son James acted without error and with adequate speed. No reference is made to Rebekah Brooks (other than in a photo with son James), an omission that is startling. And as for the accusations of former Brit PM Gordon Brown, Murdoch says Brown “got it entirely wrong” and suggested his attack was motivated by the fact that Murdoch endorsed his opponents in the last election.
Obviously, the reporter and editor are in a quandary. How do you report fairly and accurately on your boss when his empire and legacy are at risk? It’s definitely a no win. Seems they might punt by saying–“read about the problems elsewhere.” I realize that’s not an answer either, but publishing such pablum about the crisis only highlights their connection to the empire and draws them into the crisis deeper.
One of the most predictable story lines of any major accident involving a major corporate player is the headline: “Company Puts Profit Before Safety.” It is as expected in crisis communication as “Congressman calls for new rules” in the wake of any human-caused crisis. So, if it is so common, why is it news? It’s a “dog bites man” sort of story, isn’t it?
If it is common, then the opposite: “No evidence found of money before safety” in an investigation would be big news, wouldn’t it? Not so apparently. At least in the case of BP. Wall Street Journal is running a story that says a BP spill investigator, has found no evidence of sacrificing safety for profits. Yes, mistakes were made, but apparently out of misjudgments and not out of demand to save money.
If you were to ask ten people on the street if they think BP sacrificed safety for profits, my guess is about 9.4 would say, “absolutely!” So, when you have a story that so confounds conventional wisdom, wouldn’t it be logical to think that Anderson Cooper would think it newsworthy or that the NYT might consider it part of the news that’s fit to print?
Nah, I don’t think so. Doesn’t fit the storyline that they settled on a long time ago.
Well, I must say hats off to WSJ for at least letting us know about this.Turns out if you are a man and you bite a dog, only the Wall Street Journal will pay attention–especially if you are BP.
don’t have time to comment much as busy helping work a major response at the moment but this WSJ article captures much of what I was trying to say about this debate.
“Given that revenue reality, henceforth all Journal reporters will be judged, in significant part, by whether they break news for the Newswires. This is a fundamental shift in orientation which will also require a fundamental change in the inaptly named Speedy system.”
That’s the message from WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson to his reporters. The memo found on talkingbiznews blog, is one of the most telling indications of the incredible shift in journalism today. As crisiblogger readers and anyone who has been to my presentations knows, I’ve been preaching that it is all about speed for a long time. But the last few months have made it increasingly clear to most everyone just what this means. Newspapers folding right and left. Local television under seige. Twitter. YouTube all over the place. Facebook. iReport. On and on and on. Now some of the most respected journalists in the world being told that their value to their organization is going to be based on how fast they find and report the news.
WSJ (Rupert Murdoch) seems to understand that today the competition for providing relevant information to his audience is not the NYT, not NBC, not Jim Cramer and CNBC, but the millions of ordinary citizens using cell phones, instant access to news channels, Twitter, Facebook and the like. The interconnected nature of our world through the internet means that hundreds, thousands, millions can get the info they need faster than ever and directly from those creating the news–or those closest to it. Witness US Airways 1549–with the first news coming out via Twitter and a cell camera. All news organizations are scrambling with how to compete in this crazy world of public information. Now you know WSJ’s answer: URGENT!
More from editor Thomson: “With these objectives in mind, we are sending Speedy to the knackery and saddling up a successor, the URGENT. New nomenclature alone will not generate news, so there must also be basic changes of principle and practice at the Journal.”