Gossip was one of the consistent themes in my conversations with Murdoch when I interviewed him over nine months last year. If I brought him gossip, he was much happier than when I did not. Sometimes I made the gossip up — that kept him as happy.
Gossip, for Murdoch, is partly business intelligence, but Murdoch also likes to know who is sleeping with whom. He especially likes to know what liberals are sleeping around (but he will take conservatives, too). It is a prurient interest, but it is also leverage. He refers to having pictures and reports and files — though this may be as much what he imagines a powerful person like himself should have, whereas all he really has is some speculation from sycophantic reporters feeding him what he wants to hear.
The Guardian’s report about the revelations of massive illegal tapping of government officials by private investigators in the employ of his tabloid newspapers in London has as much to do, I believe, with currying favor with Murdoch as it does with selling newspapers (no less uncovering the truth).
Did Murdoch know his daily gossip fix came from illegal wiretaps?
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Murdoch calls Rebekah Wade, the former editor of News of the World and of the Sun and a family favorite, at least twice a week, sometimes daily. He checks in with the editor of the weekly News of the World before every issue. He wants to know what his editors know — at the same time they are careful not to tell him what he doesn’t want to know (he wouldn’t listen anyway).
When the New York Post’s Page Six editor, Richard Johnson (who regularly supplies the boss with unpublished tidbits), admitted taking bribes from sources and subjects, Murdoch was furious. But a good publisher, Murdoch believes, must tolerate the bad behavior in a newsroom — he didn’t fire Johnson — understanding that it is precisely such bad behavior that gets the story and provides the gossip that the boss lives for (and that sells the papers).
Equally, the reporters know that the more gossip they provide, the more their behavior will be tolerated.
So, no, Rupert may be the reason for the wiretaps, but he would not have been told about them. Don’t ask, don’t tell. (Also, the newsroom likes the boss to think they have magic ways to get the gossip.)
But here’s the problem facing the company: his son James might have known.
This article was originally published in Newser, keep reading at their website.