This week, The New Yorker adds two voices to the extensive discussion on the phone-hacking scandal and its implications for journalism.
Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, hopes the scandal
causes journalists to reflect upon their relationship to power. No matter that important information is often brought forward by unorthodox means, "a press pass is not a moral unlimited-ride card," he writes.
Anthony Lane, one of the paper's arts writers and a former Fleet Street journalist, looks
at the culture of News Corp. and its British publications in particular. It is a sharply critical and unflattering portrait, replete with many of the anecdotes in wide circulation about the Rupert Murdoch newspapers.
Newsweek.com features an extensive account
by the editor in chief of The Guardian
that provides some insight into how it persisted on the News of the World phone-hacking case.
Alan Rusbridger coherently identifies the series of events, some of his newsroom's setbacks and challenges, and the ultimate turning points that gave rise to the public awareness of the journalistic scandal.
Among other things he reveals how The New York Times
helped his newsroom pursue the story and how those efforts encouraged others to report on it.
Meanwhile, The New York Times today chronicles the handling of the scandal
and the efforts by parent company News Corp. to deal with it.
The week ahead includes a pivotal appearance Tuesday before a British parliamentary committee of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James, a leading executive of the company, along with Rebekah Brooks, the former News Corp. executive arrested Sunday.
In his latest blog post
, media writer Ken Auletta looks at what Murdoch faces in the way of legal and regulatory challenges. He clearly believes the American consequences stand to be severe in the phone hacking scandal, even without direct activity in the U.S.
Howard Kurtz, the former Washington Post media critic recently installed at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, offers his views
of the context of the News of the World hacking scandal that has collapsed the venerable tabloid and collided with the fortunes of the media empire of Rupert Murdoch.Kurtz views the scandal as emblematic of an age in which some media push the envelope of ethical acceptability for the sake of public popularity. He doesn't entirely blame media.
"In the end, the public’s indifference to how salacious stories are procured creates this lucrative market," he writes.
The world's biggest press baron has contributed an essay
to his most prominent print resource on the future of journalism, and it pronounces the advertising-supported model dead.
Rupert Murdoch's work, reproduced in the Wall Street Journal and adapted from his remarks last week to a Federal Trade Commission panel on journalism, makes clear he feels subscription revenue is the route ahead. Only by giving people what they want will they pay for it, but Murdoch is clear: They must pay.
He views the bloggers who except snippets from original work as thieves.
"Right now content creators bear all the costs, while aggregators enjoy many of the benefits. In the long term, this is untenable," he writes.
He believes the right-minded consumer will contribute if there is something worth it, so he is pinning his hopes on the model.
Murdoch has made clear in recent months his enterprise is going to proceed with a micropayment or subscription model for many of its assets.
Michael Arrington, no staunch defender of legacy media, nevertheless can spot an opening when he sees one. In this case, he has some advice for Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. as it strives to de-index itself from Google.
Murdoch has been criticized in recent days for suggesting that's his strategy. Traffic will decline and others will offer content free for which he's seeking payment, the argument goes.
But Arrington, riffing on an idea from Mahalo CEO (and former News Corp. exec) Jason Calacanis floated, suggests the way to win
the war is to start one. Namely, he suggests Google would be hurt if Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and, say, the New York Times opted to exclusively index with Microsoft's Bing search engine instead of mammoth Google.
Arrington believes the shift of power would revert to content companies, bidding wars might ensue,
"If Murdoch is going to go through with this de-indexing Mexican standoff thing, he might as well do it the right way and drive the fear of God into Google. As a spectator, I’ll enjoy watching the fireworks," Arrington writes.
The attraction for news sites a few years ago in eliminating a firewall around content was that traffic would soar and with it would come financial support in the form of well-paying advertising.
The traffic came, the advertising came, but the well-paying is a work in progress, so in considering a firewall news sites also have to consider the impact on traffic and on advertising impressions.
Then there is the other, more recently voiced issue of Google and what it is deriving from news sites compared to what it is driving to them. Google permits companies to stay off its grid, but not unlike the firewall argument, one has to calculate the impact on traffic and ad impressions.TechCrunch has calculated
, for instance, that Rupert Murdoch's recent suggestion that his News Corp. properties might come off the Google search list would be a costly one: 25 per cent of traffic to the Wall Street Journal's site, for instance.
"If Murdoch wants fewer people coming to the WSJ.com and other news sites he controls, blocking Google from indexing those sites is the perfect way to achieve that goal," TechCrunch's Erick Schoenfeld argues.
At the World Media Summit in Beijing, the world's largest press baron and the world's largest wire service leader voiced the same message
about the end of free content online.
Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. made clear: A paywall is coming. And Rob Curley of the Associated Press sent the signal: Micropayments will be the approach.
Murdoch's speech sound bite was the most provocative: ""The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators — the people in this hall — who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph."
But Curley was no shrinking violet: "We will no longer tolerate the disconnect between people who devote themselves — at great human and economic cost — to gathering news of public interest and those who profit from it without supporting it."
It is not quite a putdown, not quite a criticism, but Google's Eric Schmidt is raising the question of whether press baron Rupert Murdoch's plan for charging for content online is viable.
With so many freely available sources of content, it's more likely that the specialized content will be the candidate for a paywall, Schmidt told a conference in England.
"In general these models have not worked for general public consumption because there are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of quantity," he said.
"Quality journalism is not cheap," Rupert Murdoch said Wednesday.
The upshot is that his titles prestigious and big, from the Times of London to News of the World, will be charging for online content by next year at this time. The free ride is ending and Murdoch is signalling his intention to enforce his copyright on material.
"We'll be asserting our copyright at every point," he told the Guardian.
At the moment only his Wall Street Journal charges for online content --- although it also makes some content freely available. But Murdoch, like all proprietors feeling the impact of the recession on advertising, believes there is revenue in subscription.
He points to some of his tabloids, like The Sun and News of the World, and concludes that even their celebrity scoops are going to be attractive for subscriptions.