Sunday, February 12, 2012

Proletarianization meets News Corporation

The end of journalism as an ethical practice continues. At least this could be the conclusion reached by the unravelling of News Corporation in the face of the UK government's Leveson Inquiry into the media. (I have blogged on this previously.) There is not much room to believe in the future of newspapers as established institutions for information, as the story continues to emerge about the way News Corporation journalists in the UK collected news.

They appeared to take two roads: they used whomever they could to hack into mobile phones to illicitly collect private information and secondly, they paid police and UK Ministry of Defence officials for secret information. Both sources were used to create news and sell papers.

According to old school moralists, this is not acceptable. The clear message from the moral gate keepers is that established standards of journalism should prevail even while the Internet makes that ideology obsolete. It's a case of attempting to reproduce nineteenth century reporting standards in the twenty first century of digital feeds. The two do not fit together. They cannot fit together.

Curiously, The Guardian newspapers persists with the idea that News Corporation is the embodiment of immorality. 

The story in The Guardian on 11 February 2012 - apart from its self-serving claims to holier-than-thou status - was instructive because of the sheer joy The Guardian appears to derive from seeing News Corporation in trouble.  With a headline like this, why bother asking readers to read on?

"Murdoch media empire engulfed in scandal as Scotland Yard net spreads."

The more significant comment was this line in the story:
 Following the first set of arrests, a News International source suggested it was intent on "draining the swamp", a comment that provoked fury among the company's journalists.

Draining the swamp of what? It would be correct to assume that the higher ups in News Corporation have determined that they can get back to old fashioned journalism if they can just rid themselves of the crooks in the organization.

More strident critics than me would suggest that the entire ediface of News Corporation is a swamp. A more accurate interpretation could be that the organization may be finished as a global newspaper player because the Murdoch model of newspapers cannot be sustained, not because a few toads got into the pond to mess up an obsolete moral universe.

The fact remains that cell phones and new technology make something of a mockery of print media and its journalistic standards, even though print media continues and in some parts of the world is growing. (Latin America and parts of Asia). Draining the swamp would mean some kind of effort to find lilly-white journalists who rely on ethics as it once was. The internet has made that approach impossible.

Proletarianization means that the dirt circulates without the kinds of controls News Corporation wants to put in place. It can drain the swamp all it likes. The circulation of the vicious, the vindictive and the venemous is already here. Pretending that some kind of swamp draining will work is a fools errand.