wOw’s Question of the Week

Do you think that Rupert Murdoch himself is culpable for the actions of the newspapers he owns?

Joan Juliet Buck: Yes.

Candice Bergen: Well, now it begins. “Who ME?” “They did WHAT?” Odd that NO one in charge had a clue. I understand it is a huge corporation with thousands of employees but was there NO oversight? What they did on a massive scale is so appalling. Is Rupert Murdoch not the captain of this media liner?
Does noblesse not OBLIGE?

Joan Ganz Cooney: I feel confident that Murdoch didn’t order anyone to pay off the police or hack into the voice mail of a 13 year old missing (actually dead) girl — but he is responsible for tolerating an “anything goes” set of values at his newspaper. And apparently never asking anyone “how did we get this story?”  Seems odd or maybe not.

Mary Wells Lawrence: When a car or a plane or a box of cereal causes problems for a few or for many, it is rare when anyone blames the head of the corporation personally. But Rupert Murdoch is one of the heads of large corporations viewed, correctly or not, as a personal terrorist with employees and competitors – and hacking is a highly personal terrorist attack. It is hard not imagining his personal involvement, hard not to believe employees’ accusations — though the evidence is not all in yet.

If, in the end, it appears Mr Murdoch is guilty of creating an atmosphere in which others felt free to act as terrorists, he will suffer something worse than jail. He will die with no respect. Quickly forgotten,  the way life deals, he will be a nobody.

30 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Mary says:

    He is ultimately responsible whether or not he knew what was going on or not.  As the owner of the business he should have been more alert to what was going on or at least questioning some of the articles in his papers.  Maybe his business was just too big, which makes the question, How big can a business be before ownership is too much? 

  2. avatar Connie Turner says:

    I find myself unable to believe him or his son. I think they knew but didn’t “know” so they could deny if necessary. And, if they didn’t they are incompetent and the Board of Directors should fire them without that golden parachute.

  3. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    Yes. I am just beginning to understand the intricate web of media ownership and how a few, like Murdoch, really do try to control the news. Thank God for social media and the internet.

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I find it increduous that anyone would believe he did not know. Even more incredulous that he thought no one would ever get caught. This is the second time someone got caught. And he admitted that he did not issue a “cease and desist” order to his various editors after the first time which more or less says all that needs to be said. That and his attitude towards it all.

    And you could see the attitude reflected in his wife’s face during the hearings at Parliament – a very disdainful and dismissive “how dare you question us” look.

    Dynasties and democracy do not mix well. Particularly media dynasties.

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      @Baby Snooks – Of course he knew, and either he or his son instigated it. Didn’t “OK” it, INSTIGATED it. Anyone who is not a fool would know that. They would sell their respective Grandmothers to the devil for a penny for even one more paper to be sold. And speaking of someone who would sell her Grandmother to the devil for a penny, I present to you the Dragon Lady. Although, nice that in the deal, she got the devil to also give her a good right hook.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        The Murdochs believe they are above the law. Like all the other dynasties, they probably are.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Given the vast size of the inappropriate and illegal actions taking place, I would wonder how he could not have known. If this had been a one time event that took place in one of his newspapers I would say a resounding NO, he should not be held “personally” responsible.

    However, according to the early reports, this appears to have been a standard way of doing business. This was how they got their scoops and information for their news reports. Given all of the obvious personal information on people and incidents his news writers and reporters were able to obtain compared to other newspapers, he had to wonder how they were doing it? And even if they lied right to his face about their sources, he had to assume something was up.

    The man is not an idiot. He didn’t make his millions by being a scatter brain, shy, wilting flower, that is afraid of his own shadow. Afraid to ask the tough questions of those that work for him in fear that they would get mad at him…, he seems to be smart, brash and savvy. The guy probably knows where every nickle he earns comes from and where it is spent. This is not a man that doesn’t have complete and total control of his empire.

    My guess is he knew exactly where his staff was getting their scoops, he just didn’t care, as long as it was turning a profit.      

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      @Belinda Joy. What you said. Except he didn’t just know. He and/or his son instigated it.

  6. avatar alice ruth says:

    If he didn’t know, his son surely did. The important things is that he now knows that “we” know, and “we” don’t like the tactics of his sleazy news reporting entities. It will be interesting to find out, if it’s evem possible, how his other news gathering businesses get their scoops and control their narrative.

  7. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    The bottom rungs of any organization rarely do anything without approval from the top management. To say they “didn’t know” is a lie. The atmosphere of any business is set by those on top. I would not be surprised to find that this behavior hasn’t permeated other news organizations or syndicates.

  8. avatar chixnabox says:

    My response as a woman is “Yes, he is the CEO, he is culpable.”  As a woman fluent in sarcasm “It would not have happened if Wendy had spiked his head.  It’s her fault.”

  9. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Posturings are much in fashion. This story almost exceeds that going on in Washington right now. I have never read the WSJ with more relish now than Rupert is involved.  And the Post was revived after last rites due to him and has become a guilty pleasure for all. He is founder of Fox Television, employing untold numbers, and leading Nielson Ratings in American garbage entertainment. Why Americans are following this story is laughable, when lack of jobs and lack of leadership ought to be front and center. For instance, only yesterday did the NYTimes say Hispanic and Black median household wealth has eroded to levels not seen since 1984.

    • avatar alice ruth says:

      One might argue that leadership in this country might become less difficult if news outlets owned by Murdock didn’t seemingly have the prime agenda of skewing the facts in order to manipulate public policy.

      I’m all for healthy debate about the issues of the day, and I don’t think politicians in either party have all the answers, but Murdock-directed news outlets, in my opinion, slant most of their reports to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for elected officials to compromise and move the country along. It may be entertainment for some while having a gravely negative impact on the governance of our nation.

  10. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    I don’t think question is, Did he know but rather How could he have not known?  So yes, I beleive he is culpable. 

  11. avatar Bella Mia says:

    I read an Economist article that talked about the different values of the different generations. The old guard on Wall Street would not have stood for the new “products” that proved so dangerous, same with the news collection methods. With each succeeding generation we have a relaxing commitment to time-tested values such as honesty, integrity, candor, fidelity. To many this is seen as progress – sticking it to “The Man.”
    So I don’t think Murdock would have risked his empire for something not that valuable – phone messages of dead or missing people. The risk was not worth the reward.

    But I wonder if people will hold Obama to the same standard with Fast and Furious, the gun-running operation that sent thousands of US guns illegally to Mexico via the ATF, and FBI and IRS. All the top people are starting to roll over and it looks like the buck stops with the Big Man. This is getting bigger that Iran-Contra. If Obama didn’t know – he should have, otherwise he has been a figurehead in a rogue operation.

  12. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Culpable = blame.  Hmmm?  For bribery of Scotland yard officals by news reporters?

      Brings to mind a humours scene in the movie “His Girl Friday”, when Ms. Russell, a reporter, is literally running down the street in pursuit of a city official, tackles him and then we find out later that she bribed him to garner the infomation she needed.  Hmmm??

    Is Rupert Murdoch culpable for the illegal action of bribery of a police officials when Murdoch cannot be connected directly to the bribery?  From where came the bribery money?  Whose money?  Can it be proven that whatever information was gained from the bribery was directly handed over to Murdoch?  Can it even be proven that the information was then used by NEWS Corps for publication?  Guilty by association, perhaps?   Guilty for sitting at the desk where “the buck stops”?   Is this then a kangeroo court?  Or just the gnashing of teeth by folks who dislike Murdoch because of his wealth, power, connections, manuiplations, and personal behavior?

    I am still finding all the Murdoch scandal stuff a bit perplexing. 

  13. avatar Anais P says:

    Ultimately a CEO is responsible for the wrongdoing of his corporation. Murdoch has the reputation of being a somewhat hands-on CEO, too. And with the sums of money being paid to hackers, it stretches credulity to believe he did not know. So my answer is: yes.

  14. avatar Bonnie O says:

    I am still mulling over the questions …. blame, responsibility, cupability???

    When Dan Rather and his news producer put forth as truth those phony documents implicating President George W. Bush of wrongdoing, both he and the producer lost their jobs … but not the head of the CBS news division.

    When that Washington Post reporter wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning news story that turned out to be fabrication, she lost her job but the Washington Post editor and city editor escaped any cupability.

    Didn’t the same thing happen at The New York Times?

    When NBC was found guiity of wrongdoing with regard to their news coverage of the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta and were forced to compensate the person with whom they harmed by their coverage.  Did the head of NBC news suffer any consequences?  No, he did not.

    When does the blame get shifted from the culprit to the employer?  It would appear from reading most of the comments here, that the cupability is only applicable if the news organization is not a left-leaning news outlet.

    I have read that the London Times would be out-of-business if not for the Murdochs.  They are accepting a 50 million pound lost each year so that the prestigious newspaper is able to continue publishing.  Interesting.

    • avatar Anais P says:

      There is an enormous difference between isolated journalistic lapses (New York Times, Dan Rather, Washington Post) an individual reporter is responsible for and BREAKING THE LAW using huge amounts of money which higher-ups must account for, repeatedly and systemically and involving police! If a person does not understand the difference, they do not understand this is not a journalism matter, but a legal one.

      • avatar Bonnie O says:

        I am somewhat knowledgeable of what is or what is not journalism.  I beg to differ from your rather vague analysis and fuzzy charges you alledge as wrongdoing by the Murdochs.  The blog here has been filled with similar allegations.  Please name specifically what “huge amounts of money” and “which higher-ups” do you refer.  I do not refute that police were bribed nor that hacking of mobile phones occurred.  But not by the Murdochs.  By journalists who worked for the Murdochs?  Yes, that has been proven.   Is your only connection of these crimes to the Murdoch family because the reporters worked for the Murdochs?  That is a stretch for any journalist, let alone a jury to swallow.

        I do not defend the Murdochs because I support them or their newspapers.  (Though I do like to read the London Times now and then).  But nobody here at wowowow has stated in their comments of what exactly is or are the allegations or crimes committed.  Influence peddling?  Rot.  The hearings held in Parliament only reiterated what was already known.  The allegations of knowledge of the hacking and bribery were directly refuted… under oath.

        A good journalist used facts not speculation in writing his story.  A better journalist has two sources to back up his story.  A poor journalist uses innuendo, hyperbole, assumptions and generally the type of comments posted here.  Your comment, unfortunately, falls into the latter category, the poor journalist category.    

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Facts? How about this fact?  A glaring one. This is the second time the Murdochs have been caught up in the “illegal activity of their employees.” By his own admission Rupert Murdoch did NOT isue a “cease and desist” order to his editors the first time. And by his own admission did NOT issue one the second time.  Says all that needs to be said.

          As for journalistic standards, the most important of the canons is the avoidance of bias. Which some who defend the lack of on the part of the Murdochs lack as well.

          Journalism is not partisan. But some like biased journalism. For the obvious reason.

          • avatar Anais P says:

            Thanks, Baby Snooks. I like the points you’ve made. I like your style. Too bad wowowow does not have a “like” button!

          • avatar Bonnie O says:

            Your bias and many here are clearly identified.  Culpability usually is followed by criminal charges.  Where are the charges?  You have found a man guilty of OF WHAT?  If what you purport is true (which I reserve some doubt) then Rupert Murdoch because he did not tell his news reporters to “cease and desist” in their illegal news gathering, then Murdoch is guilty of a crime?  A crime OF WHAT?

            I have been reading more about Rupert Murdoch and, like many a successful businessman, there is a lot of good and bad to found in the individual.  His newspapers have carried worry causes to the British public and to the Parliament for needy legislation.  The actions of some reporters (how many?) are justly critized and those particular individuals should be brought into court.

            Otherwise, I witness here a kangaroo court of public opinion …. all based upon speculation (and perhaps a lot of “I wish it were so”)  and less sense than I have witnessed in many a year.

          • avatar Bonnie O says:

            oops   should be “worthy causes”.

            Really, really miss the editing function.

  15. avatar ellenterry says:

    Criminally? No. Culturally? Absolutely. A CEO is responsible for the culture of the organization and it is that culture that sets the tone for appropriate, or inappropriate action. This is really no different than compliance with the FCPA in that regard – executive leadership and support is the cultural base.

  16. avatar Kathy Ackerman says:

    I’m going to defend the man, not because I like him, per se, but because I’m not convinced in my own mind that he has much control. I thought his appearance at the Parliament hearing was very revealing — the man is aging and aging badly. He appeared doddering and befuddled. This is not the Rupert Murdoch of even 10 years ago. He may have very well KNOWN about it, and even approved of it, but he’s not in control anymore. James Murdoch and Rebecca Brooks, and even to some extent, Wendy Murdoch have the reins.

  17. avatar KarenR says:

    hmm…NY Post employees??

    “News Corp. on Friday asked employees at the New York Post to save any information related to phone hacking or bribery of government officials…”

  18. avatar Susan G says:

    Of course Murdoch is culpable. He merely had to open his publications to question the sources of the stories he was reading. It’s incredible his staff allocated budget for bribe money and private detectives without his knowledge. The first inquiry into this issue was in 2005, the first arrest in 2006.

    And doesn’t the publisher, or certainly the publisher’s legal team, get consulted when a media outlet covers stories likely to attract litigation?

  19. avatar Mark Rowe says:

    IF they do it, then they are! One has to keep in mind, the fact that today more then ever before, our news media is being restricted from reporting the news. Especially world news. We are being told only what they want us to know in a fital attempt to controll the American people. Never before has a forign country controlled the freedom of speach in America as some are doing today. Some with the help of our own government.
    Understand that sence the leader of the CIA becamse president, his son followed with an outright attack on this country that continues today. An attack greater then any worldly government could do.