Of course, as a billionaire, he's not likely to experience much in the way of personal suffering, or discomfort. And as an octogenarian, his days as one of the most powerful individuals in the world, and specifically as the Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, second only to Disney as the world's largest media conglomerate, were numbered anyway.
If you haven't been following the story, Wikipedia can help you out with a general entry on the News Corporation scandal, and a specific one on the News International phone hacking scandal. I also recommend my friend Marvin Kitman's columns on the Investor Uprising website, five so far on the scandals and Murdoch's questionable entry into the American media landscape.
And the way I see it is, this is a story that broadcast journalists, with the exception of those owned by News Corporation, will not let go, or go easy on. Simply put, I think most broadcast journalists see Murdoch as single-handedly responsible for lowering the level of discourse on television news, of ruining the ideal of objectivity in reporting, through the "fair and balanced" programming of Fox News. I can only imagine the anger and resentment that exists in the industry towards the man and the company that so degraded the institution of journalism.
And let's be clear about it, the claim to maintaining objectivity in news has long been subject to criticism as, at best, an impossible ideal, at worst a smokescreen that mystifies the ideologies embedded in the news. But Murdoch has demonstrated, to the critics, that there is a big difference between well-intentioned, honorable, professional attempts to withhold personal opinions and remain impartial, and deliberate attempts to set the agenda and manipulate public opinion.
If news always was a form of propaganda in some ways (following Jacques Ellul--see my previous post, Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, and the Technological Society), we can certainly say that some forms are better than others (even Ellul would allow that there is a great deal of difference between western technological societies based on liberal democracy, and those associated with totalitarian governments), and the News Corporation has made broadcast journalism seem more propagandistic than ever before.
The natural response to such a development on the part of the audience is a cynical one. So, once upon a time Walter Cronkite was the most trusted person in America, a television news anchor who was the epitome of journalistic professionalism. Now, we put our trust in comedians such as Jon Stewart, and Stewart has quite properly expressed his qualms about that state of affairs. It is the inevitable result of what Neil Postman pointed to in Amusing Ourselves to Death (as noted in my previous post, Aliteracy Anxiety). When news becomes a joke, comedians become our most respected journalists.
So, no, I don't think the broadcasters working in the news divisions of CBS, NBC, and ABC, and the cable news professionals at CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and the rest, are going to want to let this one alone. At least not as long as their professional ethics suggest that there is something to report on. No, they're going to want to milk this one for all that it's worth.
As for the title of this blog post, well, just in case you don't get the pun I'm alluding to, here you go: