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By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

The Morning Hack: All The NewsCorp That’s Fit To Print

DAVID CARR LEADS  OFF his Monday “Media Equation column: “‘Bury your mistakes,’ Rupert Murdoch is fond of saying. But some mistakes don’t stay buried, no matter how much money you throw at them. Time and again in the United States and elsewhere, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation has used blunt force spending to skate past judgment, agreeing to payments to settle legal cases and, undoubtedly more important, silence its critics. In the case of News America Marketing, its obscure but profitable in-store and newspaper insert marketing business, the News Corporation has paid out about $655 million to make embarrassing charges of corporate espionage and anticompetitive behavior go away.” $655 million? Carr continues at the link, revealing where the head of that subsidiary wound up. (If you’re guessing atop the New York Post, you peeked.)

The FT’s John Gapper thinks “Fleet Street is becoming a luxury for Murdoch.” In the Guardian, Charlie Brooker compares the unfurling saga to the end of John Carpenter’s They Live. (His casting suggestions for a BAFTA-bashing biopic don’t hold a wombat up to the 74-second “teaser” for “Hackgate: the Movie.”) Yahoo Finance lists the 25 major holders of NWS stock.

Ian Burrell at the Independent profiles “Team Murdoch,” the men coaching the 80-year-old mogul for his Tuesday morning seance before Parliament. Jay Rosen Storyfies reactions to how the assignment could affect Edelman PR’s brand.  In an intensely dense infographic, Bloomberg Businessweek illustrates the phone-spying scandal’s reach. NYTimes has a more modest graphic connecting key players. The paper’s timeline graphic of the scandal’s turns is more ambitious. Prime Minister Cameron, in Africa, skips Rwanda and Sudan for an early return to deputize investigative commissions. The Independent’s political editor: How near does all the furore come to the doorstep of No. 10?

NewsCorp’s Wall Street Journal does its own cleaned-up tick-tock, taking special issue with the allegations of spying on 9/11 victims: “Casting some doubt over the claims, however, is the newspaper article they originated in. The Daily Mirror, a British paper, quoted an anonymous source saying an unidentified private investigator had been approached by unnamed journalists to provide phone numbers of the victims and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the terrorist attack… The Daily Mirror did not provide evidence for its claims and did not revisit them in its coverage on Friday. The story so far has not been substantiated by other news outlets.”

“NEWS AND ITS CRITICS” is the modest pun from the Journal’s editorial board in its unsigned Monday leader: “When News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch secured enough shares to buy Dow Jones & Co. four years ago, these columns welcomed our new owner and promised to stand by the same standards and principles we always had. That promise is worth repeating now that politicians and our competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp. to assail the Journal, and perhaps injure press freedom in general… We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world… We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp…”

PAIDCONTENT, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media,” headlines the response as “WSJ To News Corp. Critics: STFU.” “The editorial in Monday’s Journal doesn’t use the term “shut the f* up” or quote Cee Lo Green but the 1,046 carefully chosen words are written for the choir and aimed squarely at News Corp. critics,” they write. “The gist: Don’t blame us; the Journal is better off out of the hands of the Bancrofts; not investigating hacking is worse than hacking; fear media regulation; the BBC; the Guardian and liberal politicians have their own agendas; and anyone who backs Wikileaks should look in the mirror. It is a masterpiece as far as defensive editorials go—and the Journal and its journalists would be better off if it had been spiked.”

The Washington Post editorializes, too, offering comfort to British hacks who spy: “Britain’s biggest media problem is not too much freedom but too little: Onerous libel laws deter critical reporting about public figures and arguably drive journalists to measures such as phone hacking to obtain lawsuit-proof stories.” Channel 4 has News International’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Greenberg, on phone hacking at the company:

In Newsweek’s long piece on the subject, London mayor Boris Johnson offers, “I’ve got no doubt that a good number of papers were engaged in identical practices to those of News of the World. The confected outrage about the intrusions that you’re reading in some newspapers that I won’t mention by name, except to say that they’re the Daily Mail—I’d be amazed if these papers weren’t engaged in similar practices. Including the Daily Mirror and maybe others as well.” AP reports: “Liberty Media chief John Malone, who engaged in media-mogul head butting with Murdoch over his stake in Murdoch’s News Corp… did not return a message seeking comment that was left with a spokeswoman. CNN founder Ted Turner, who once challenged Murdoch to a boxing match in Las Vegas, was unavailable, according to a spokesman. New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman, whose newspaper fights every day for front page dominance with the Post for New York’s tabloid audience also did not return a message seeking comment.” The Nation‘s John Nichols claims NewsCorp has “gamed” American politics as much as it has the British system. Reuters talks to former News of the World employees about pressures of the newsroom under Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

TheWrap claims “[E]ven some in Murdoch’s elite circle of fellow multi-billionaires have deemed him kaput. ‘No one can take News Corp. away from Rupert,’ a member of that lofty strata told TheWrap, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘But he’s dead money. He’s not going to rise again.'” Guardian: BSkyB directors to meet on £2bn payback to investors and James Murdoch’s role as chairman. Reuters: NewsCorp’s Australian shares drop 7% to two-year low.

Media pundit Jeff Jarvis stood tall on his tweetbox, too: “The Wall Street Journal is becoming Murdoch’s cheap harlot, publishing his ‘interview’ and ‘editorializing” his defense.’ Oh dear. A little later, he offered his own prescription for either the preservation or the detonation of NewsCorp’s newspaper holdings. Filmmaker Aaron Stewart-Ahn bowls a googly on Twitter: “Maybe Murdoch’s cunning plan is to have so many people arrested, resigned on daily basis everyone gets stunningly confused.” [Times of London front page preview tweeted by Jon Hill Design; Bloomberg Businessweek by Rafat Ali.]

“The Hack” is an occasional column of media commentary.

One Response to “The Morning Hack: All The NewsCorp That’s Fit To Print”

  1. Not David Bordwell says:

    Ray, a word of personal thanks for your sterling curation of the News of the World headlines over the past two weeks or so. I was in Europe when the shit started hitting the fan, and the bigger stories in the German papers were the Women’s World Cup and the ongoing sovereign debt crisis extending to Italy (they were also still talking about DSK, for Christ’s sake).

    Coming home and finding everything I needed to know all lined up on Movie City News was a treat, and reading each story as events unfolded was gripping.

    Cinematic, even. Anyway, good work and thanks.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
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“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
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