The Big Lie At The Heart Of Rupert Murdoch's Media Empire
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Here's my little theory: News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm. The logic of holding these "press" properties is to wield influence on behalf of the rest of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch's own power urges.
However, this fact, fairly obvious to outside observers, is actually concealed from the company by its own culture. So here we find the source for the river of denial that runs through News Corp.
Fox News and the newspapers Murdoch owns are described by News Corp, and understood by most who work there as "normal" news organisations. But they aren't, really. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world – that's the fiction in which opponents and supporters join – but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence is.
Scaring politicians into going along with News Corp's plans. Building up an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which then admits Rupert into the back door of 10 Downing Street.
But none of these facts can be admitted into company psychology, because the flag that its news-related properties fly, the legend on the licence, doesn't say "lobbying arm of the Murdoch empire." No. It says "First Amendment" or "Journalism" or "Public Service" or "news and information."
In this sense the company is built on a lie, but a necessary lie to preserve certain fictions that matter to Murdoch and his heirs. And that, I believe, explains how it got itself into this phone hacking mess. All the other lies follow from that big one.
Strangely, I do not think that News Corp people like Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch are being insincere when they pledge allegiance to the values of good journalism. On the contrary, they believe that this is what their newspapers are all about. And this is the sense in which denial is constitutive of the company, a built-in feature that cannot be acknowledged by any of the major players because self-annihilation would be the result.
Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University, is a leading figure in the reform movement known as "public journalism," which calls on the press to take a more active role in strengthening citizenship and improving democracy. His book " What Are Journalists For? " addresses this topic. As a press critic and essayist, he has written about the media and political issues for the Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, the New York Times, Salon, and Tikkun -- and almost daily at his weblog Press Think .