Expect everything- but change

Rupert Murdoch- no longer scary

It’s hard to get through an hour – never mind a day – without coming across some media scribe daring to think the unthinkable.

As the News International commentators desperately try to avoid feeding on their own corpse, the Guardian is leading the charge into a previously-unthinkable situation- that of a Brave New Murdoch-free Media world.

It might prove to be a better place but I would sincerely doubt it, as there will be no change as to how the media, in particular in Britain, does its business.

Remember the other institution in the not-too-distant past that was too big to fail?

The collapse of Lehmann Brothers sent shockwaves around the world, because for once a vested interest was allowed to drown in the pit of its own greed and stupiditiy.

We were told that never again will a bank be allowed to get into such a position.

Having displayed the same traits, there is every chance now that News International will go the same way, and if last week’s flight of the shareholders continues it could become the media equivalent of a run on the bank.

The once all-powerful Murdoch will be left with nothing- no company, no power and no respect (his reputation doesn’t matter because he never really had one worth defending).

But despite all the “never again” waffle around the collapse of Lehmann’s, little has changed.

Banks are still taking huge risks and passing them on to their customers. Needless to say, they only pass on a fraction of the profits from these risks, and they are more than happy to allow other investors and taxpayers to foot the bill when it all goes wrong.

So too with the media. Murdoch, whose media outlets had precious little credibility to begin with, has now completely lost his air of invincibility.

His continued clumsy attempts to manipulate not just the media, but also the police and politicians have made him so toxic that even those he put in power are running away from the mushroom cloud of poison that surrounds him.

Still, nothing has changed. Confining themselves to covering the collapse of Murdoch’s empire, the press do not speak of regulation or investigation of practices across the board – only in connection to News International.

Because in truth, they do not wish to have the whole sorry story of how they do business dragged out into the light.

If they did, it would mean the end of the “source close to the player/celebrity/victim”.

It would mean an end to hanging around outside hospital smoking areas offering cash to nurses and cops in return for information.

It would mean an end to taking a single sentence and spinning it harder and faster than a Major League baseball pitcher.

It would mean writing about actual news, instead of making stuff up on a whim. And that would be nigh-on impossible.

The media, and in particular those active in the tabloid newspaper sector, have created a monster made up of millions of readers who crave news about Cheryl Tweedy, Ryan Giggs and Gordon Brown’s sick child.

It is a ravenous monster that needs feeding every day.

It cannot be caged, and it isn’t even in their interest to do so. Hence the lack of desire for real change.

So what will happen?

It’s very possible that Cameron will resign, as will Murdoch junior. Brooks could well go to prison for a while along with a few others.

And Murdoch himself will go quietly into the night, becoming the Bernie Madoff of the media, whose empire was built on a lunatic Ponzi scheme of ever-greater lies and deception.

But change and regulation in journalism will be notable only by their absence, and we will return to the insanity of allowing the media to do what they always did, all the while expecting a different result.

And like the banks after Lehmann Brothers, News International will become a footnote in history, a cautionary tale of what can happen when you sail too close to the wind.

Then it will be business as usual again.

Wind turbine jobs just so much hot air

Enda- getting Ireland working by announcing the same jobs over and over again...

Just when the world was starting to lose faith in the fourth estate, Lorna Siggins goes and does something we can all be proud of– exposing Enda Kenny’s cheap PR stunt as he basked in the glow of 145 “new” jobs that were actually announced two years ago.

If News International, Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch personify all that is wrong with the media, Kenny and his spin doctors have shown another seedy side of the business of communications.

As anyone who has ever had a manager will testify, there are always people who will opportunistically try to take credit for something they had nothing to do with.

Following a week where he has been kicked from pillar to post over A&E units in places like Roscommon, Enda and his staff have been flailing around desperately for a bit of good news to take him into the weekend on a high note.

But this is basket-case Ireland, and the banks “passing” their stress tests (no surprises there as they were essentially allowed to Tipp-Ex out all the bad debts they have) was never going to be enough.

So as he headed off to NUI Galway someone, somewhere in Enda’s office dusted down the press release from the CF Manufacturing group and lo and behold, 145 “new” jobs were created.

Except they weren’t – or if they were, they were being created for a second time.

CF had announced their intention to create these jobs two years ago. A swing and another embarrassing miss for Enda.

So all credit to Lorna Siggins of the Irish Times, who resisted the temptation to go rummaging through Robbie Keane’s rubbish and instead broke an important story about a government desperate for a decent headline.

And no credit at all to Enda, who is no doubt spending a lot of his time pondering the political fate of Garret Fitzgerald.

The recently-deceased Fitzgerald was the last Taoiseach who did what Kenny now has to do, namely administer an awful lot of bitter economic medicine to the Irish people, with no spoonful of sugar on offer to help it down.

The Irish electorate slaughtered Fitzgerald at the polls, denying one of the two world-class statesmen Ireland has had since the war (the other is John Hume) the chance to harvest the fruit of his hard political labour.

Kenny is now in the same boat, and his desire not to go down the same road as Garret is understandable.

But instead of blowing off a load of hot air about the wind turbine jobs, he would be better advised to harness the disparate state agencies charged with accelerating Ireland’s recovery and insist that they work together, rather than separately, towards the common goal of getting Ireland working again.

I know he has tried, but as with many big organisations, the message goes through many changes as it goes down through the ranks, and on the ground little has changed for those tasked with finding us tourists and investors and buyers.

(Apart, of course, from the fact that their budgets have been slashed, making the job of selling a badly run economic mess harder than ever before).

But if he can succeed in this task, he will have an awful lot more than 145 new jobs to announce to the Irish people next time he opens something at a university.

Why Rebekah Brooks should resign from newspapers- along with the rest of us…

The Hotel Torni in the middle of Helsinki is a wonderful place. From the bar at the top you can look out over the rooftops of this wonderful city and winter or summer, it is a beautiful sight.

There are only two dangers; one is the narrow staircase that leads from the lift up the final flight to the bar.

The other is that, having consumed enough alcohol to make you both attractive and clever, you will get into a heated discussion with a foreign correspondent.

I did it once with Daniel Frykholm, who at the time was Reuters’ top man there.

Despite the fact that he subsequently left the world’s biggest news agency, Daniel was (and I suspect still is) a Reuters man through and through, possessing just the right combination of intelligence, humility and curiosity that makes a great news reporter.

Odd then that he would argue in favour of tabloid newspapers, saying that, ever since the time of the “penny dreadfuls”, the general public has had a hunger for the most salacious stories, and would gladly set the truth aside just to read an incredible rumour.

It was, as a colleague of ours once remarked “not necessary for it to be true-only possible“.

I disagreed. For me, it is not the function of news journalism to entertain, and not everything a journalist comes across is news. In much the same way, just because the public would be interested doesn’t mean a story is in the public interest.

The fac that we as readers are unable to make that distinction is the driving force behind circulation slaves like Brooks, who has more or less sacrificed her career because of her desire to go further than anyone else in the business.

But paper never refused ink, and the truth is that millions of readers queued up every week to read about the sexual indiscretions of Premier League footballers and politicians. Banner headlines proclaimed the shortcomings of celebrities about whom the most shocking thing was usually their stunning lack of talent.

Simply put, if we didn’t read it, they wouldn’t write it, and in doing so they wouldn’t tempt journalists to root through people’s garbage or hack their phone messages.

We have a responsibility not just to be more selective about what we read, but to be critical of it, asking the obvious questions- why am I being told this? How did they find out? What are the sources? Has money changed hands? Entrapment? To paraphrase the Dublin expression, what is the story?

Reading is a skill, reading a newspaper is something that requires a more suspicious and enquiring mind, and it is only when we start to read more carefully and selectively that journalists will feel obliged to write in a similar fashion.

And if we decide not to, we should do what the despicable Rebekah Brooks has thus far failed to do and resign from the newspaper (reading) business.

And hope to hell that she quickly follows us.