Murdoch: Mortally wounded?

To preserve his company and his role as role CEO, Murdoch may have to sacrifice his son, James, whose testimony before the British Parliament is being challenged.

The end is near for Rupert Murdoch, said David Carr in The New York Times. With his media kingdom crumbling around him, Murdoch has sacrificed his most trusted lieutenants in a desperate attempt to survive the phone-hacking and corruption scandal sparked by his British tabloids. Next, to preserve his role as News Corp.’s CEO and the company itself, Murdoch may have to sacrifice his own flesh and blood. James Murdoch, 38, has spent his life being groomed to step into his father’s shoes, but two former company executives have challenged his testimony before the British Parliament last week. If he lied about not knowing that phone hacking was a common practice, “James Murdoch is done.” His 80-year-old father may be next. It was the senior Murdoch, after all, who created the win-by-any-means culture that turned News Corp. into an international media behemoth “living by its own rules and operating beyond consequence.”

“Please spare us” such sanctimony, said The New York Observer in an editorial. Murdoch “surely is not perfect,” but as soon as the actions of his employees came to light, he moved swiftly and with compassion: closing his beloved News of the World tabloid, giving up his bid to buy a controlling interest in British TV network BSkyB, and, with head literally in hands, expressing his deep regrets personally to people whose phones had been hacked. Murdoch’s rivals in the media loathe him for his conservative politics, so they continue to bay for more blood. But Murdoch is not some dark lord of the media; he’s a “world-class visionary” who revitalized the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other troubled newspapers, and brought political diversity to TV by creating Fox News.

Consider, however, the enormity of the crimes his company has committed, said Ryan Chittum in the Columbia Journalism Review. His reporters and editors bribed cops to hand over information on celebrities, royals, and crime victims; hacked into a murdered 13-year-old’s voice mail and erased possible evidence about her whereabouts; destroyed troves of e-mails and documents; and paid out millions in hush money. In the U.S., News Corp. has paid more than $650 million to smaller rivals to settle allegations of thuggish, anti-competitive behavior. And yet Murdoch’s defenders contend that what his company did “isn’t that big a deal.” That’s about as credible as a screaming headline in one of his tabloids.

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