News Limited chairman John Hartigan sat contrite and conflicted at a press conference yesterday announcing that the rugby league team he owns had cheated to win its two premierships:
“I regret we have probably not yet uncovered the full extent of this fraud … make no mistake, News does not tolerate this behaviour.”
He meant the club, but he might as well have been talking about his journalists and his organisation.
Hartigan is pleading ignorance: the Melbourne Storm were providing quarterly statements to News that it was meeting its salary cap obligations; assurances that were “given but they were not true”.
In this emerging scandal — and it’s hard to think of a bigger one in recent sporting memory — News Limited owns the club, half the league, most of the daily newspapers covering the story and a big chunk of broadcasting rights it must now protect. It owns the story. The conflict is inherent and insidious.
Media companies should stick to media. If, like News, they don’t, they can’t complain when no one trusts them to cover their own dirty washing.
Like the rest of the country, Crikey will honour our fallen diggers in the best way we know how — not showing up to work on Monday. Normal transmission will resume on Tuesday.