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Comments & corrections

Jul 11, 2011

News of the World

Crikey readers have their say.


News of the World:

Greg Baxter, Director, Corporate Affairs, writes: Re. “Simons: Murdoch hangs on to lieutenant Brooks … give me a break” (Friday, item 2). I have no doubt Margaret Simons has a mate somewhere in News who claims never to have seen our Code of Conduct, therefore allowing her to assert that most of our people have never seen it, never been encouraged to read it and don’t abide by it. Etc etc

The code has been published and updated twice in the past 5 years as far as I know and hard copies distributed to all newsrooms. It is also available on the intranets of each of our major divisions. It is included in induction packs when we employ staff, including journalists of 15 minutes or 50 years’ experience.

Hartigan made two points about the code in his note to staff. One, his personal belief is that the code should guide everything we do. If it doesn’t, it should. And, implicit in that is a warning to any journalist who has left the code unread in the bottom of a drawer. Take it out, read it and abide by it.

As for Margaret’s reference to Jay Rosen’s tweet, would any decent media outlet allow a reference like this to be included in a story in this way, gratuitous, unchecked, without elaboration, explanation or qualification? Clearly Crikey works to different standards. If Crikey has a code of conduct please send it to us.

John Richardson writes: I’m not here to defend Rupert or James Murdoch, Rebekah Woods or the literally thousands of other News Corporation servants and acolytes whose success and fortunes have been secured through their relationships with the “Sun King” over the decades (including family members, friends, politicians and business associates), but surely we should pause from throwing sticks and stones at the poor old bugger, just long enough to reflect on the fact that whatever News might have done, other media organisations have also done.

The current hysteria sweeping Murdoch’s empire ignores the fact that politicians and businessmen of all persuasions have been complicit in his immoral and unethical behaviour for decades, as they have sought to pursue their own self-interest. Indeed, if it’s good enough for Rebekah Brooks or James Murdoch to have their heads removed to demonstrate that “someone” at News really is accountable for the current mess, I for one would like to know why wasn’t it good enough for John Howard or Alexander Downer to go to the block over the AWB affair?

As Simons herself observed in her piece last Thursday :

“This morning as I rang around newsrooms, one person said to me that he knew many reporters who, if the culture of the newsroom encouraged it, and if everyone else was doing it too, would not hesitate to hack phones or break the law.

‘People don’t think that clearly, or that well. And the culture of the newsroom can be a powerful thing.’

I agree. Those of us who have worked in media organisations know that it is rare for ethical codes to be referred to or taken seriously, if they stand in the way of getting the story. It is also almost impossible, particularly in this country, to enforce the codes.

News Limited in Australia, for example, has a code of professional conduct. Yet ask young reporters within the empire whether they are aware of its existence, let alone what it says, and you will get some idea of the priority it has in the organisation. And if they were aware of it, they would naturally wonder how it was that it was sometimes honoured in the breach, including by senior editors.

Until journalists are prepared to give deep and serious thought to the appropriate limits of our action and power, we can expect more reporters to unthinkingly race on, chasing the story like greyhounds after a rabbit, until they find themselves beyond the point of moral return.”

It certainly seems like self-righteous hypocrisy is not amongst the list of behaviours being targeted by the self-appointed media lynch mob?

Beryce Nelson writes: It is well known in the fantasy world of marketing that if a product brand is damaged beyond repair you change the brand or kill the product — or both. This was the case with major legal and accounting firms after the scandalous Enron affair in the US. You then create a new entity — largely made up of the same people and it’s business as usual.

The News empire seems to think this well tested strategy will work for them but it won’t. What the Murdoch Group does not yet seem to realise is that the whole well is now poisoned. The only way the family can salvage anything from this mess is to quickly divest themselves of their remaining media assets before the value falls even further and hope that the long arm of UK law does not reach them.

Somehow, I doubt that any of this will happen. After all, it is just a fantasy.

Singing gran:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Deported singing gran heading back for another crack at the UK” (Friday, item 12). The question to ask of the British Government is whether the Customs officer had the option to do other than he did, or is the legislation so limiting that he had no option but to deport her. He may well have been within his rights to do what he did, but one would think that any reasonable person would have let her through, if that option was available to them.

If this is the case, he should be severely reprimanded and the British Government should have the decency to refund Maureen Lum the extra costs she has borne. I only hope the Australian Government makes its displeasure known very clearly. With CHOGM’s visit to Western Australia just around the corner perhaps we can threaten to deport the Queen when she visits if she even thinks about humming Rule Britannia.

Poetry bombing:

A Crikey reader writes: Re. “Video of the Day: the art of poetry bombing” (Friday, item 8). After watching the video I was inspired to check my suit jacket and lo and behold, I found the following sonnet sewn into the lining:

Professionally dry clean only
short cycle
reduce moisture
do not tumble
max temperature 50C
use press cloth with warm iron

The bard could not have said it better himself


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