It is impossible as an employee of Rupert Murdoch to offer any thoughts on the phone hacking scandal in the UK without being accused of being a company patsy and probably also a sycophant, even a liar.
On a personal and professional level I have found some of the revelations which have come out of the UK to be troubling at the very least, and appalling at their absolute worst. It is also the case however that two of the biggest and most damaging allegations against the company aren’t actually true at all.
From where I sit, working for the Australian arm of this media business, the whole affair is starting to look like a psychotic and reckless fight-to-the-death by British journalists who, in that hyper-competitive media culture, have often cut corners or chanced their arms to be first with the news.
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Fifteen years ago, when I was at uni studying Anthropology, Political Discourse, and the Hegemony of the Hate Media, I couldn’t have foreseen the day I’d be eager to defend Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers.
Back then I also thought a belly button piercing would give me a certain je ne sais quoi, when all it gave me was a deep and revolting infection. Things change.
But although I can feel my gorge and my blood pressure rise when I hear the way politicians pretend adverse media coverage is to blame for their entirely self-created debacles, it’s still hard to leap into the fray.
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From the parliamentary precinct across Lake Burley Griffin to this correspondent’s home takes six or seven minutes by car - max.
But that was easily long enough on Wednesday night to highlight a massive contrast between the grindingly dull and scripted performance of the Australian House of Representatives and the more dynamic, and frankly more honest British equivalent on which ours is modelled.
Thanks to the storm over phone hacking and political entanglements associated with the now defunct News of the World, Question Time in the mother of Westminster parliaments was broadcast on the ABC’s News Radio.
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So much for the schadenfreudegasm.
Last night’s grilling of Rupert and James Murdoch by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was rather more like a ‘rose ceremony’ in an episode of The Bachelor: slow and excruciating, but compulsive viewing nonetheless.
The entire event was full of tension and politeness in equal measure, and James Murdoch’s long-winded non-response to the first question was more heavily scripted than the episode of Winners and Losers which aired earlier in the evening.
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Three new books about groundbreaking figures in Australian journalism - a proprietor, an editor and a reporter – provide some interesting insights into the contemporary media landscape.
The three men are: Rupert Murdoch, who needs no introduction, Graham Perkin, revered ‘60s and ‘70s editor of The Age after whom we name one of our highest journalism awards, and Alan Reid, guru of the Canberra press gallery from the late ‘50s to early ‘70s.
The three books are reviewed in the June issue of The Australian Literary Review today. Les Carlyon, no slouch himself, looks at Alan “The Red Fox” Reid: Pressman Par Excellence, by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt; former Fairfax editor Max Suich tackles Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin, by Ben Hills; and Clive Mathieson, a rising star at The Australian, considers his boss’s big deal in War at the Wall Street Journal: How Rupert Murdoch Bought an American Icon, by Sarah Ellison.
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The one advantage that paper-based magazines have had on their electronic counterparts is usability and look. The ability to turn the page and take in the beauty of a well-designed magazine is something that most web sites can’t match.
Portability is the other area where magazines have had the edge. Carrying them around is lot easier than a standard computer.
As such, many have scoffed at Rupert Murdoch’s aim to get people to pay for digital content. After all, lots of online content is currently free and there’s been nowhere near enough ‘value-add’ to warrant people paying for content. However, the launch of Apple’s iPad tablet could well be the game changer that proves Murdoch right. With their new ultra-portable tablet, Apple can change the publishing industry to the same degree that they’ve changed the music sector.
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