Rupert Murdoch's rivals are full of glee. Finally, the big bad old boy had overreached, and is in big trouble. Better yet, the virtue of the nice, good, clean papers like the NY and LA Times shine even better by contrast. Hurray!
But, without even being the devil's advocate, I would argue that precisely the opposite is the case.
For what is the role of the papers? To engage in journalism. And what is journalism but informing the public of what's going on? Now tell me, all of you who are righteously enraged at Murdoch -- did he fail in that particular mission, the mission of journalism? Granted, the methods of getting the information were highly unethical, and possibly illegal. But were his customers -- the readers -- served well? Did he fulfill the journalistic mission of informing the public?
The answer is a resounding "yes" -- but can the same be said of the likes of the NY, or LA Times? Of the papers that were dragged by the internet publications, kicking and screaming, to even mention the name of Rev. Wright during the last election campaign?
The papers that would have loved to turn away from John Edwards' and Al Gore's indiscretions, and would have hid them from the public?
Yes, Rupert Murdoch's papers pushed far too hard, but how about not pushing by the LA Times, which allegedly sits on the record of Obama's pre-presidential, pro-Palestinian speech made at an event honoring his close friend Rashid Khalidi, diligently guarding it from the public? Is that a service to journalism, and the public? Or how about the NY Times, which out of zeal for the affirmative action pushed forward and promoted Jason Blair, who out of gratitude -- and laziness -- plagiarized stories, when not inventing them out of thin air? Was that done for the sake of journalism?
Bottom line -- the methods employed by Rupert Murdoch's publications were wrong, and he has every reason to apologize to the public. But his intentions -- which were to inform the public, in accordance with the perceived taste of that public -- were perfectly right.
There was no intention to manipulate the public, there was no urge to lead the public by the nose, but only an overwhelming desire to inform. While there was precious little ethics, there was at least plenty of journalism. At least, the readers got the full measure.
But can we say the same of our own media -- the nice, clean, good NY and LA Times, and NPR? Do they strive not to manipulate the public, but to inform it? Not exactly.
So who is better?