Guest column: Rupert Murdoch, News Corp scandal sheds light on media

Sheridan Watson

On Jan. 19, it was announced that Rupert Murdoch and News International has agreed to pay cash to the dozens of people – including Jude Law and Danii Minogue – harassed and hacked by the titles in his corporation.

News Corp was famously thrown in for a loop last summer. Once allegations of illegal activity arose, all the respect for the conglomerate had seemed to dissipate.

Surprisingly, Hugh Grant was one of the first to out the company by wiring himself and interviewing a “reporter”, where he caught the reporter admitting they hack phones, delete voicemails and set up illegal activity in order to get the scoop.

Countless American celebrities complain about the paparazzi’s presence on their front lawns. British ones, however, such as Sienna Miller and Jude Law have claimed that the British media is far worse.

While a photographer might follow you to the Beverly Center here in Los Angeles, British photographers and reporters have been known to blackmail you for an exclusive photo shoot.

So where is the line when it comes to privacy? Politicians have always been held up to a higher standard. That’s mostly because they shouldn’t be campaigning for one thing and living another.

The Oscar-winning actor Robert DeNiro famously shies away from the spotlight because he doesn’t want his personal life to ruin his presence onscreen. Other celebrities have claimed that if you don’t want to be seen, you don’t have to be.

But some have no choice. When News Corp was indicted by parliament, salacious claims came to light about their unethical practices.

Widows of the Iraq war had their phones bugged while some reporters could listen in on Prince William and Harry’s personal cellular devices.

Perhaps the worst claim was that of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002. Reporters from News of the World apparently hacked into Dowler’s phone after her disappearance and deleted voicemails, causing police and her family to think that she was still alive.

It seems as if the twenty-first century has truly become an age of shock. Where anything will sell and because of that, newspapers are willing to put in the extra illegal mile in order to obtain the best stories. Gone are the days where some modicum of privacy can be expected.

And what does that have to do with us? Well, one of News Corp’s most valued employees, Piers Morgan, recently took over Larry King’s famed show on CNN.

Morgan is now being investigated by the British parliament for his role in the hackings while he was editor of several of News Corp’s tabloids.

For those on reality shows or news programs, I suppose the story is a bit different. After all, you cannot expect to make money from being yourself and then cry out privacy issues in your “personal life.”

But for those in film, it is a problem.

Apparently, anything one can do to “get the story” is done. Because of this all or nothing approach, we cannot watch a Lindsay Lohan film without seeing the girl sprawled across the tabloids. When most of us see the new Leonardo DiCaprio film, instead of his performance, we wonder which Victoria’s Secret model he is dating.

Tabloid life and screen life have meshed together so inexplicably that it seems impossible to untangle.

And because of that, the future of media is bound to look a little bleak.

Daily Trojan, U. Southern California via UWIRE