The News Corporation News of the World scandal has taken another lurch with the publication of documents, including a letter from News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman, alleging that the paper’s leadership knew and approved of telephone hacking.

No surprises there for anyone who has worked in a newsroom. It would not have been possible for editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks to have both been doing their job, and to have been in ignorance about hacking and blagging.

There are certain routine questions that editors always ask when faced with a decent news story. They include: is it true, and how did we get it.

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But the real significance of these simple facts about a working newsroom is that the Murdoch family, particularly Rupert, know them too. Unlike many newspaper managements these days, they understand how the business works. None better.

So in other words, Brooks must have known. And Rupert and James must have known that she must have known. And yet they continued to back her and say publicly that they believed her denials.

Now, I am not the only one who thinks this. Readers of The Australian’s media section will have seen Mark Day’s account of a Wheeler Centre event last week in Melbourne at which he and I both spoke.

Day describes his role as having been to “put a contrarian, pro-Murdoch view”. And by and large, he did. And as he acknowledges he and I agreed on at least some things. Including, for those who advocate the fall of the Murdoch press “be careful what you wish for”.

But what he does not say in his column is that he also agreed with me that Brooks must have known, and the Murdochs must have known that she knew. I described them as “culpable”. He used the word “responsible”.

And the other thing we agreed on is that the era of Rupert Murdoch is effectively over, and that the succession of another Murdoch to the head of the company is now extremely unlikely.

With the Murdochs now to be quizzed again over their fairly dubious evidence to the British parliamentary committee last month, anyone who is paying attention can seriously doubt those conclusions, I would suggest.

Be careful what you wish for? Without Murdoch, we will probably soon lose The Australian. Meanwhile Fairfax is weak.

Those who care should begin to think about what Australia will be like without any broadsheet newspapers. And I am not talking only about their print iterations, but about the journalistic capacity they represent.

Time to stop gloating, lefties, over what is happening in the UK, and get to grips with the emerging civic crisis at home. Or at least mix the gloat with some plans for action.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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