Article first published as “What’s Caused The End of ‘The World’?” on Technorati.
The end of the world had been due on Saturday 21 May. Instead we fell into the abyss on Thursday 07 July.
As I’m unashamedly superstitious about Thursday, I was wholly unsurprised that the Murdochs should choose it to announce the closure of The News of the World, the end of 168 years of British newspaper history – and that of 200 jobs.
But the entire scenario was surely an accident in-waiting. If it had not been the NoW, the short fall from disgrace into the void could have been the lot of any of the better known newspapers published in the English speaking world as they are, in my view, all part of a very unsavoury piece.
What runs the engine of a good newspaper? The ingredients are generally considered to be conscientious, even courageous reporting; fine writing and elegant, exciting design with the whole supported by five-star production and a constant flow of reputable advertising.
But that Utopia – if it ever existed anywhere but in my imagination – has long since been replaced by a publishing world dominated by a miasmic sleaze in which news organisations of all types, sizes and power are fuelled by contempt and oiled with personal spite.
The newspaper business is creative and highly pressurised, so it’s also no shock that its internal politics are vile while artistic and professional betrayal is rife.
There are too few people who become journalists simply because they love the craft of telling a good story well and too many who are as shallow – and despicable - as those whom they often portray.
If theatre holds up a mirror to nature, how much more true is this of newspapers, which at their best attempt to portray it accurately while entertaining their readers?
The modern world is riven by hate even as it is perversely melded by mutual loathing. Do the newspapers and their writers merely reflect this or are they the partial cause?
As a kid I was told that the job of a (local) journalist was to make celebrities of nonentities. That explains a lot!
I also remember learning three-times Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s scathing censure of the British newspaper barons, Lords Rothermere and Beaverbrook.
During a speech on March 17 1931, using a phrase borrowed from his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, he claimed that their privilege was “power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”
Nothing has changed during the past 80 years. It’s just got much worse. The Murdochs did not close the NoW to save Rebekah Brooks’s role as chief executive of News International but to save their News Corporation and more specifically their plan to own BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting).
The past fortnight has been woefully sad for British journalism. First there were the allegations of intellectual theft by award-winning writer, Johann Hari – and now …
The conclusion is bound to involve a radical overhaul of British news practice with yet more stringent laws against contempt, libel, intrusion and privacy.
But those worst off will be the poor souls scribbling for small, undistinguished regional papers - should these impoverished publications survive. Such people’s working lives will be made yet more miserable by strictures designed for the large publications but which are certain to affect them.
However,there is one further twist to this awful saga which has been highlighted by columnist and pro-Israel activist Melanie Phillips.
If the Murdochs are forced to leave Britain, the anti-American, anti-Israel consensus will prevail. That is not good news.
I conclude with a couple of excerpts from Ms Phillips’s blog:
“In a western world whose intelligentsia is consumed by irrational and malevolent hatred of America and Israel and is hell-bent on undermining the west and assisting its mortal enemies, Murdoch has provided the one media voice putting forward a pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-defence of the west position -- including support for the Iraq war ...
“This is about exerting influence over the British people. Love him or hate him, Murdoch has the capacity to deliver that alternative which is why he is being assailed ...
“But the awful thing is that, if these allegations about NI prove even only partially true, the enemies of both Murdoch and all the public causes that he champions will be correct that he presided over an organisation that debauched British public life. And so those of us who stand for the defence of free societies against its enemies both within and without will have been dealt a terrible blow.”
Now we know.