Murdoch and His Critics

Regarding the scandal that has roiled Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire, a few things seem clear. The phone-hacking scandal in London is deplorable. Journalists have violated the privacy of ordinary citizens and, it is alleged, the law of the land in the United Kingdom. Tabloid reporters from the now-shuttered News of the World showed a reprehensible disregard for ethics as they pursued stories with little if any redeeming value. The culture of low-brow British journalism finally has come under intense scrutiny, and it’s about time.

All of the above is inarguable. But, of course, for some critics, the story is a good deal larger than all of that. For them, the story is about Mr. Murdoch. According to his critics, there is no evil to which he will not descend. The scandal at the News of the World has touched off nothing less than a media crusade against Mr. Murdoch, with the publisher’s oh-so-innocent enemies assuming the moral high ground as they attack not just the tactics of rogue journalists, not just the culture of British tabloid journalism, but the very character of Rupert Murdoch.

Please, spare us.  While it’s clear that many things were amiss at the News of the World, and while many questions remain to be asked of the relationship between British reporters (including those who don’t work for Mr. Murdoch) and Scotland Yard, it is simply wrong to assail Mr. Murdoch simply because of his politics. Yes, he was a part of London’s tainted tabloid culture, but that does not make him a symbol of that culture.

Rupert Murdoch has apologized, profusely and with genuine humility, to the family of Milly Dowler, the young murder victim whose phone was hacked into by reporters from News of the World. The family’s attorney said that Mr. Murdoch put his head in his hands as he expressed his grief. What more could he have done? How many publishers have apologized to families whose suffering has been exacerbated by media coverage? How many publishers would have closed a valuable property like News of the World? Mr. Murdoch did that, and more—he dropped his bid to purchase B Sky B, which was extremely important to him.

Mr. Murdoch clearly is one of the most powerful people on the planet. He is unabashed about his politics and he is willing to spend billions to underwrite media properties that reflect his world view. Those who disagree with it are free to read another newspaper or flip to another channel. Despite what you might have read or surmised from coverage of the scandal, Mr. Murdoch has no monopoly on news and opinion—in this country, in the U.K., in Australia, or on Planet Earth. Nevertheless, he is a big target for those who disagree with him—or who simply cannot compete with him.

They have piled on in recent days, with untoward enthusiasm. The scandal in Britain is a tragedy on many levels, for the Dowler family, for the families of journalists who are now out of work in a terrible economy, for the integrity of the Metropolitan Police in London  and surely for the Murdoch family. But there is no sense of sorrow in the tone of Mr. Murdoch’s critics. Instead, they gleefully insist that the scandal is a reflection of his personal failings.

Mr. Murdoch surely is not perfect. But he happens to be a world-class visionary who has revived dying newspapers (against the advice of his more-practical advisers), supported alternative vehicles for political and cultural criticism from Fox News to the Weekly Standard, and improved the readability of properties like The Wall Street Journal. He has been a staunch supporter of Israel and a crusader for education reform in New York.

Rupert Murdoch’s opinions are not to everybody’s taste. They are not intended to be. But New York newspaper readers should realize that there is a reason why this city is home to one of the world’s last newspaper wars, why there is greater diversity of opinion in this city’s newspapers than there was a quarter-century ago, and why politicians of both parties have had good reason to fear a phone call from the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

That reason is Rupert Murdoch, who came to New York in the 1970s and singlehanded revitalized the city’s newspaper landscape.

He has done this city a service. It is important to remember that as his critics seek to portray him as the media’s world king of darkness.


  1. Anonymous says:

    what garbage.

    murdoch not only knew about all this but approves of it and when you stop being his shill you might understand that no one takes it upon yhemselves to do this without confidence of their bosses.

    this is just the tip of the ice berg and murdoch will fall by the end of the day.

    he is as deplorable as you are lacking in integrity.

  2. John Zorabedian says:

    Blech. Was this written by Murdoch’s PR flacks or by real journalists?

    1. Joan1973 says:

      It was written by a newspaper, controlled by Donald Trump’s elitist son-in-law. Just more “world view” from the top…where spit “trickles down” on people like me and you. 

  3. BritWales_UK says:

    A signal is sent to any phone number ID basically telling it that the communication is from it’s own number ID thus permitting access to messages, data and information contained therein. That is called Phreaking.  Phreaking is a portmanteau of the two words phone and freak, it also refers to use of various audio frequencies to manipulate a phone system. Hacking is computers to computers.  Phreaking = crime of illegally accessing telephones, not hacking. Why do Jurnos and authorities mistakenly type #hacking in relation to illegally accessing phones ? The correct term is phreaking so will you clarify this please asap in the American media ? Beat Britain by being first to use the correct term of #phreaking !

  4. I believe that “the ends justify the means” is a good summary of your article.

    When it pollutes the ability of elected officials or police from doing their job, at a time of a declared war and attacks on Britain from outside, I’m not sure that it’s best to argue that “the ends justify the means” as you weaken the country.

    Money is not the same thing as power, and power is not the same thing as authority.

  5. MurdochPR says:

    “singlehanded revitalized” did you not proofread Mr Murdochs PR statement before reprinting it in entirety? It was raw copy.
    Very disappointing. You’ll be getting a call this morning.

  6. BritWales_UK says:

    Rupert Murdoch has now departed on a flight from Britain safely returning to America. Bon voyage ! 

  7. Anonymous says:

    So how much did News Corp pay for this tripe?

  8. Joan1973 says:

    Overall, this is a fairly balanced opinion piece (which the Observer is entitled to have on its own). But this A** licking ignores the fascist culture of Murdoch’s politics and how FOX News, all the Murdoch papers and the disgusting abuse of law in the UK… are all tied to the man who started it, Rupert Murdoch. In my opinion, people like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump are simply right wing fascists, whose ONLY concern is their self-enrichment (as a matter of corporate policy, using Trump’s corporate bankruptcy and all “tools” available, including illegal phone hacks by Murdoch’s papers) at any cost… including societal ethics and common law.

    1. BritWales_UK says:

      Phreaking = crime of illegally accessing telephones, not hacking. Phreaking is a portmanteau of the two words phone and freak, it also refers to use of various audio frequencies to manipulate a phone system. Hacking is computers to computers.  

  9. Kevin Davitt says:

    When did Rupert buy the Observer?

  10. Kevin Davitt says:

    When did Rupert buy the Observer?

  11. Gort221 says:

    Really? What a bunch of crap. Rupert the Hero? Laughable. With this piece you just turned into a hack.

    Get a clue for gods sake. read the history of the man. He’s corrupted politics and news you dolt.

  12. “He has been a staunch supporter of Israel ”

    With supporters like Murdoch, Israel doesn’t need enemies.

  13. Tim Schreier says:

    Please stop opining.  Stop now.  Please.

  14. Chally says:

    I’m confused. It’s not April Fools Day, so why the joke editorial. It is a joke, right? like the Onion?

  15. Docjabs14 says:

    Great article , finnaly not some biased unsubstantiated dribble..just the truth

  16. Anonymous says:

    Last night,the PBS station in Boston broadcast an episode of “MI-5”, a British show known there as Spooks. In it, a far-right newspaper tycoon with properties in the US and the UK tries to unseat the government, until the brave spies go undercover (one with a false rape allegation) to force him to move out of England and to abandon his political power. I say this not to observe life imitating art but rather to postulate that some people in England have been gunning for Murdoch for years. (TV Guide says the show was originally broadcast in 2004.) Fleet St. is a long way from America in general and NYC in particular. For Murdoch to be investigated in America because of scurrilous,  evidence-free allegations about British activities is an insult to every ethical American employee of a very large corporation. Perhaps some pushback is due to those doing so, you know, the first people to accuse OTHERS of “McCarthyesque” behavior?

  17. Tripe!  Drivel!  Horseshit! Trash!  You’ve gotta be kiddin’!

  18. Personality disorder here?

  19. Jim Freund says:

    It is sad to see the Observer sink down to this level.  Murdoch is indeed, one of the most powerful figures in journalism and politics.  The ways and means he has gotten there, when not illegal, were because he caused laws to be changed.  (Such as how many media properties could be owned and operated by one entity.)

    The Murdoch-owned presses have baited its competitors, ganging up with his multiple properties — the WSJ, Fox News, etc.  So you wonder why the rest of the media is delighting in Murdoch’s well-deserved troubles?  It’s called payback!  And you know what they say about that…

    So sorry to hear about which side The Observer has put itself on.  Maybe it’d like to be acquired…?