Friday, July 15, 2011

"We Report, You Decide"

Can you believe and trust the people who bring you the news of the day?

It's getting harder and the free world doesn't need that.

I spent 35 years of my working life as a reporter, editor, anchor and radio and television news director. It was never a "job." Rather, it was a calling. I took the responsibility seriously and there are still days when I wish I was covering the "big story." But those days are fewer and farther apart.

The company that operates newspapers and a radio and television network that repeats the phrase over and over -- "Fair and balanced" -- appears to be neither fair nor honest.

We're in the second week of almost daily revelations of unethical and possibly illegal behavior at one or more of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp newspapers. A former British executive of News Corp has been arrested, and a trusted Editor in London has resigned.

And, News Corp. has hired a New York public relations agency.

Almost every day this past week I've been asked to rate how Murdoch and company are doing as crisis managers. I'm always reluctant to judge a company in crisis.

However, we teach PR folks to never stand in front of a burning building and ask a reporter,"What fire?"

Allegations that Murdoch's News of the World Sunday tabloid paid for information from London police officers and hacked the private cell phone of a murdered 13-year-old girl and possiby many other persons, brought this response from the head of the company, "...recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police. . .are deplorable and unacceptable."

At first I thought he was doing the right thing and expressing his regret for the behavior of his employees. But, then I read the statement again. It wasn't the action of his newspaper he found deplorable, it was the allegations he found unacceptable.

Frequently, here in the US, corporate executives apologize in the wake of some kind of scandal or wrong-doing and say they are "sorry if they offended someone." They're not sorry for what they did or said, they're only sorry if it offended someone. There's a big difference.

A lot of Americans still don't realize that Rupert Murdoch now owns the venerable American business news publication, The Wall Street Journal.

The scandal that is still rocking London raises a terrible question, "Has the Wall Street Journal been spying on Americans and paying bribes to news sources in this country?"

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