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Como si fuera una comisión de la verdad, la investigación oficial sobre el escándalo de las escuchas telefónicas en Reino Unido está dejando al descubierto los horrores de un mal pasado reciente. Damos gritos de asombro al oír todas esas historias de intromisión e intimidación, la angustia de una madre, un niño que se vio empujado a quitarse la vida. Pero estamos hablando de Reino Unido; por tanto, el poder descontrolado que creó esa cultura del miedo no era el del Ejército ni el de la policía militar, sino el de los periódicos sensacionalistas.

Los directores y propietarios de los tabloides, en su mayoría, siguen negando la evidencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tom Watson MP said the new material was devastating and he was not exaggerating. Difficult though it may be to believe, documents released by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee are at least as damaging to News International management as the revelation last month that Milly Dowler's voicemail had been hacked. That news prompted disgrace and resignations: now we are looking at possible criminal charges at senior levels.

Assuming that these documents hold up to scrutiny, a whole raft of executives – not journalists or editors, but well above that level – are surely likely to be questioned by police investigating the possibility of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the hearing into the News of the World phone hacking scandal in London this past Tuesday, the commissioner of Scotland Yard did something unusual for a policeman. He quoted Shakespeare. Explaining the swiftness of his resignation, he mangled a bit of Macbeth: “If ’twere best it were done, ’twere well it were done quickly.” The reference was perfectly fitting for a scandal whose defining adjective is coming to be “Shakespearean.”

Many have noted superficial similarities between the scandal and Shakespearean tragedy: overheard messages, hired thugs. There’s a hashtag sprawling through Twitter: #shakespeare4murdoch. (My favorite so far: “remorse, remorse, my kingdom for remorse.”)…  Seguir leyendo »

Who owns a pause? Sometimes it is hard to say. If a powerful 80-year-old magnate chooses not to answer a question for 50 seconds is it because he is hopelessly out of his depth or because his contempt for the charade he is being obliged to tolerate means he will take as long as he likes before he offers a monosyllable or two?

Perhaps a pause held long enough will curdle the question sent, each second ratcheting up the disdain he has for the inquiry. Perhaps it is a mythic battle for who really owns time: "I will impose my rhythm and answer when I am ready."…  Seguir leyendo »

As long as we have had tabloids, we have had tabloid scandals.

Weighing in on the spate of scandals plaguing the British tabloid press, one commentator in 1936 acidly condemned what he called “the almost unbelievable indecency of the intrusion of the tabloid newspaper into people’s private lives.” Surely only the most degraded, low-minded people, he claimed, could produce this kind of news.

The article, from the magazine Fortnightly, was part of an ongoing debate in the interwar years about the intrusions of certain newspapers — the tabloids chief among them — into moments of “private grief.” The debate eventually made its way into the House of Commons, where major news agencies were encouraged to punish reporters who violated standards of decency in pursuit of a story. …  Seguir leyendo »

The FBI opened an inquiry late last week into Rupert Murdoch's media empire amid allegations that British reporters tried to access cellphone messages and records of Sept. 11 victims. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), among the members of Congress who sought the investigation, wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller, citing news reports that reporters attempted to obtain phone records of victims through bribery and unauthorized wiretapping.

Although these kinds of tactics may come as a shock to the public, I witnessed many of the same tactics while working as a cub reporter for the Globe tabloid in the late 1990s.

Some American tabloids do not operate much differently from British ones.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una lectura superficial de la crisis de News of the World podría dar una impresión equivocada de la prensa británica. Podría incluso dar pie a una mirada de superioridad, autocomplaciente e injustificada, ante los graves incumplimientos de los principios profesionales del periodismo y las evidentes infracciones de la deontología profesional que han llevado al cierre patronal voluntario del periódico de mayor difusión de Reino Unido. Un análisis atento del caso sugiere algunas lecciones que vale la pena considerar, procedentes de la tradición periodística más acreditada y capaz de afrontar sus mayores pecados.

La importancia histórica de la prensa popular dominical, en primer lugar.…  Seguir leyendo »

El caso News of the World y la política informativa de la News Corp. de Rupert Murdoch en el Reino Unido ha devuelto a la actualidad el viejo debate sobre los límites de los poderes del canon Montesquieu, por una parte, y el derecho a la información y la libertad de expresión, por otra. De paso, ha dirigido el foco sobre la sombreada zona de intersección de estos dos opuestos, donde se cuecen intereses comunes no siempre confesados ni demasiado visibles para los ciudadanos. Conviene recordar en este sentido que la información --nos guste o no, que este es otro tema-- es un concepto con un significado a la vez económico y discursivo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los dramáticos sucesos de Reino Unido han penetrado incluso el caparazón de un país como Estados Unidos, obsesionado consigo mismo. Desde Stanford veo cómo el legendario periodista Carl Bernstein los compara con Watergate. En un programa matinal de televisión, Hugh Grant hace un llamamiento a los estadounidenses para que se den cuenta de la perniciosa influencia de Rupert Murdoch en los medios de comunicación de su país. El senador John D. Rockefeller pide una investigación de las actividades de la empresa matriz de Murdoch, News Corp., y que se averigüe si hubo escuchas telefónicas en Estados Unidos. Si es verdad que se espió a víctimas del 11-S, como sugirió el parlamentario británico Tom Watson hace unos días durante la sesión de control semanal al primer ministro en la Cámara de los Comunes, esta historia habrá dejado de ser un asunto extranjero para los norteamericanos.…  Seguir leyendo »

A few years ago my old boss, David Laventhol, had an extended conversation with Rupert Murdoch about newspapers. It was after some sort of big-deal journalism dinner, and they talked long after the tired waiters wished they'd go. David had a storied career in newspapers. He helped invent the Style section of the Washington Post when he was a young editor there. He was editor and publisher of Newsday, publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of Times Mirror, finishing his career with me at the Columbia Journalism Review.

As David tells the story, Murdoch had endless questions about the tiniest details of the production and distribution of dailies, from press types to paper weight to payroll.…  Seguir leyendo »

Do we need any other evidence that the Kultursmogexists and that it is international - at least in the English-speaking world - than the fact that the biggest news story in the United Kingdom today is also the biggest news story here? I have in mind the telephone-hacking story about NewsoftheWorldreporters in London listening in on private conversations and possibly bribing Scotland Yard. The Kultursmogis that set of ideas and tastes that are utterly polluted by left-wing values and carried by the liberal news media to pollute peoples’ minds.

Every day, the NewYorkTimesand its subsidiaries throughout mainstream media hammer away at the story of a scandal in faraway England, and, of course, they have located Rupert Murdoch at the very heart of the story.…  Seguir leyendo »

Intellectuals in Britain have always regarded Rupert Murdoch with suspicion. His rise to prominence on the media scene in the 1980s coincided with a brutal yearlong lockout of newspaper workers, aimed at breaking the traditional hold of their labor unions. In the dominant position he subsequently gained, with four major newspapers and a large stake in television, he began to exercise significant influence over the political scene, and even greater influence on the down-market end of the press.

One anomalous feature of British journalism is its long history of scurrilous, muckraking weekly scandal-sheets, the tabloids or “gutter press,” which since the Victorian era have delighted blue-collar readers with stories of murders and sexual misconduct.…  Seguir leyendo »

So farewell then, News of the World. We will remember Squidgygate and Camillagate, the buying up of witnesses ("blood money"), the "kiss and sell" affairs, the celebrity hacks and most recently the phone hacking. Its editors have been "drinking at the last chance saloon" for 30 years, which should enter the record books as the longest swill in history.

It saw off the powerless Press Council, replaced by the worthless Press Complaints Commission (PCC). Nothing has really changed since it was condemned for publishing topless pictures of Diana on a private beach, to which judgment the paper responded by republishing them under the headline "This is what the row's all about, folks".…  Seguir leyendo »

The chances that Rupert Murdoch would choose to shut a 168-year-old newspaper, a profitable one at that, are nil. The News of the World's closure is a sure sign that the man at the top, known for calling all the shots himself, isn't alone any more.

News Corp is a family-run company – and, more and more, a family imbroglio. Some of the intrigue: Rupert has ceded substantial power to his son James, who made the decision to close the NoW. While James's power is part of a calculated succession plan, he also has his own leverage: he is his father's closest family ally in accommodating Wendi, the patriarch's divisive third wife.…  Seguir leyendo »