The Power of the Press

A young Rupert Murdoch in happier days...
While endeavouring to undertake some investigative journalism myself over the past week, the fruits of which can be seen here, I've also been following the fall-out from the phone hacking scandal at News International.

It is all now becoming quite surreal, with former PM Gordon Brown MP lashing out in only his second Commons speech since he was dumped out of 10 Downing Street to bewail the sins of the news empire. You can't blame him for doing so, since he and his family were affected by News International's corrupt methods of journalistic enquiry, but as others have commented, Brown was only too happy to manipulate the same media with his spin doctors. Parliament itself, thanks to the work of The Telegraph, has been revealed to be no stranger to corruption in the light of the expenses scandal.

For me, the Murdoch saga raises some pretty big questions. How can it be healthy for democracy for one man to own so much of the press and therefore form so much opinion?  The press needs money and it needs a degree of power through its popularity and freedom in order to defend democracy from tyranny, but what is to come of it if it abuses that power?

I read something written by the Evening Standard's editor in which he expressed fears that the phone hacking scandal at News International could engender a rigourous clampdown on the press by the Government. That would be bad news, if you'll excuse the phrase. We are living in strange and dangerous times. Governments are no less corrupt today than they have been in previous generations and the Fourth Estate needs to be safeguarded from the contagion spreading out from News International. Already, the Fourth Estate is highly compromised by its own financial interests and that is a cancerous disease at the heart of what Belloc described as the "official press".

The politicians so easily made or broken by media barons like Murdoch are happily laying into the empire now and it is true to say that every politician fears the huge power and influence of the press, which can now report on matters immediately through its online presence. However, the same does not apply necessarily to unruly, multinational or global barons of another kind who, through their own empires and acquisitions, attempt to gain their own monopolies in their chosen markets.

Every politician feared Murdoch, but how many CEOs feared Murdoch? How many executive directors of huge multinational firms feared the power of Murdoch's empire? I would argue that very few did or indeed, do. Why? Because these are the companies who advertise in Murdoch's pages. I would argue that Murdoch, and indeed every media baron is guilty in some measure of refraining to report on much that is scandalous in society in terms of ownership and misuse of power, because his worst nightmare is that nightmare that has come true for the News of the World - the sudden disappearance of his advertisers. Aside from the phone-hacking scandal, that is what really compromises the empires of press barons and their ability to bring integrity into reporting.

The investigation that I have worked on that can be seen here makes one or two things quite clear. The most unreported abuse of power and the real corruption in society at a local level, in a way that affects individuals lives is that abuse of power by the strong in society and the rich, over the weak, defenceless and poor. That, as well as holding the Executive, the Judiciary and the Parliament to account, is what newspapers should be interested in. Newspapers should defend the weak against the strong, not the strong from the weak. My publication, small as it is, will endeavour to do so. Against all the odds, I believe it will succeed in its objectives because barons do not like it when their abuses of power become public knowledge. The mighty of this World fear the truth from emerging and fear the public reaction when their crimes become apparent.

If anybody would like to help with funding for the latest issues distribution across Brighton, I would like to hear from you. The people of Brighton deserve to know about the scandalous neglect shown to Brighton's most vulnerable. The poor deserve to have the story of their abuse at the hands of the rich and powerful told and the rich and powerful 'barons' of this World, and their Governmental friends, deserve to have their greed and neglect of the poor revealed to the city of Brighton and beyond. Journalists should report the truth and they should do it without fear of what may follow.

Catholic journalists or even newspaper owners, should see their vocation as one that upholds the Catholic faith and defends the truth. That, incidentally, is perhaps the only reason they should be offered a Papal Knighthood. Quite why Rupert Murdoch received one is a mystery upon which Fr Ray Blake has shone some much needed light. Perhaps it is time the Page 3's 21-year-old from Croydon promoting, celebrity gossip, destroyer of reputations and owner of a phone-hacking press empire, Rupert Murdoch, had his Knighthood removed and his anti-Christian empire destroyed, no matter how much money they've given to a Cathedral in LA. Money has never bought virtue or salvation. I can't see how it warrants a Papal Knighthood.


Nothing surprises me nowadays...