One of the many bizarre aspects of the crisis in News Corporation’s UK newspaper business News international is the way the giant company, one of the world’s biggest and hitherto most successful media organisations, has got every big decision wrong as the scandal which started with phone hacking at the News of the World has spread to allegations of wrongdoing all over its empire.
The latest spectacular own goal is its own management standards committee which has been busily forwarding details of News journalists’ supposed misdemeanours to the Metropolitan Police, which has responded (rather unsportingly) by arresting sundry journalists from its top-selling tabloid the Sun in a series of dawn raids.
This has led to outright civil war at News International with senior journalists, most notably former Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh (still a Sun columnist) leading the charge against the MSC.
But the most telling intervention against the company has come from Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn who rose to fame and fortune on the Sun.
Yesterday Littlejohn (pictured) launched one of his trademark broadsides against the MSC, in particular its two leading lights, former Daily Telegraph editor Will Lewis and former Chelsea PR man (and London Evening Standard sports editor) Simon Greenberg.
Lewis is widely derided in Fleet Street for being “ferociously ambitious,” code for willing to sell his grandmother to move up the company. Greenberg is reviled for his stint at Chelsea where sports writers, who used to be his chums, were frozen out if they so much as suggested that not everything owner Roman Abramovitch did was measured and sensible, brilliant even.
Now the two of them have, in Littlejohn’s words, been “grassing up” their colleagues at News international.
Littlejohn also takes the Met to task for its “Stasi-like” behaviour, putting nearly 200 detectives on the case (some of whom would be better off trying to solve London’s 24 unsolved murders according to Littlejohn) and its predilection for descending en masse on the homes of suspects, rifling through personal possessions and even ripping up floor boards. Kavanagh made the same point and was right to do so: the police’s thuggish behaviour is unnecessary and deplorable.
The rozzers (who probably watch too much TV) would claim they are only doing their job as they see it and the point is that Lewis and Greenberg’s MSC is making it considerably easier and more damaging to News international.
Rupert Murdoch and his cohorts obviously saw the MSC as the best way to try to put a lid on the scandal (again) but it has backfired spectacularly. It’s one thing to co-operate with the law (legally, that is), quite another to pour buckets of petrol on a raging fire.
Murdoch is supposed to be in London this week to try to sort things but it’s probably too late for that. Sun hacks won’t need reminding that the last time he descended on London in the midst of a crisis he closed the News of the World.
The way things are going he needs to close down one or the other, the MSC or the Sun.