Thursday, June 26, 2014

An unbelievable verdict

I spent nearly half a century in the newspaper business, and met -- and on a few occasions worked with -- crooks and various other sorts of criminals. But they were few. Fewer, I believe, than in most other lines of work.

That may be only participant bias but newspapers are different from other businesses in that you get rewarded, in esteem, by pointing out publicly the lapses of your competitors; or even your colleagues.

Nevertheless, the newspaper business also has a long and storied history of criminality, mostly on the business side. Herbert Bayard Swope was one of the famous American editors of the 20th century. He ended up a multimillionaire and not just by selling papers one at a time for 3 cents each.

Which is all to lead up to a long piece in the Guardian by Nick Davies reviewing the trial in England of Murdoch's minions. Only one was convicted.

I do not for one minute believe the others were not also guilty. Davies sets out the reasons, which are completely persuasive:

The hacking case against Brooks and Coulson was based on a platform of inference. How could they not have known about the beehive of offending around them, the crown asked. How could they not have known about Mulcaire’s speciality when he was one of only two outside contributors with a full-time contract and was being paid more than any reporter, at one point more even than the news editor? How could they not have known the origin of all those stories whose accuracy they had to test? How could they have been ignorant when a humble sports writer described Mulcaire, a former footballer, as “part of our special investigations team” in a story published by the News of the World when Brooks was editor? Brooks and Coulson insisted they had known nothing of Mulcaire’s criminality. They had not even heard his name until he was arrested in August 2006, they told the jury.
The rightwingers have run a campaign for over a generation -- it didn't start with Spiro Agnew but it heated up to a new level  then -- to besmirch the newspaper business and the honestly of reporters. It turns out that, by far, the most guilty are the rightwing component of the business. Go figure.

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