Murdoch empire rocked to the core by latest arrests in the UK

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Photo - LIFE.com

The staff at the bestselling British newspaper are alarmed and angry amid fears that the fate of News of the World would befall them. However, Rupert Murdoch moved immediately to assure the staff that the paper would not close down at a time when it is facing its greatest challenge.

The five members of the Sun newspaper who were arrested and released on bail are deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and deputy news editor John Sturgis.

Others arrested in relation to the scandal included a police officer, a Ministry of Defence employee and a member of the armed forces. They were held on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracybut were later bailed.

Dominic Mohan,The Suns editor, was quick to defend his team. He pledged to continue editing the paper with his brilliant staff, while News International chief executive, Tom Mockridge, said he was saddened that another five colleagues had been arrested.He said some of those detained had ”been instrumental in breaking important stories about public bodies, for example the scandal of under-resourced troops in Iraq. News Corp said it has provided legal support to those interviewed by the police.

”I understand the pressure many of you are under and have the greatest admiration for everyone’s continued professionalism. The Sun has a proud history of delivering ground-breaking journalism. You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper,” Mockridge said in a statement.

BEYOND THE GRAVE

Journalists and the National Union of Journalists interpreted the arrests – 10 from The Sun so far – as tantamount to being thrown to the wolves and an attempt by the company to distance itself from widespread practices across British media for decades.

In the world of media, nothing stays dead for long, Sarah James, a tech guru at News and pic., told Arabian Gazette. Apparently News of the World, seems to have a considerable effect beyond the grave.

Detectives searched The Sun newsroom at Wapping, in east London, and the homes of the journalists under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. The widening of the investigation was prompted by detectives trawling through 300 million email messages from the archives of The Sun and News of the World.

They were given access to them by News International’s management and standards committee, set up last year to handle the response to the investigation into phone-hacking allegations at the now-defunct tabloid.

STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES

Management and Standards Committee (MSC), anindependent committee operatingunder the chairmanship of Lord Grabiner QC, is under contact with the News Corp board through Joel Klein, one of Murdochs closest executives, and Viet Dinh, a non-executive who steered the boards response.

With about 100 lawyers, forensic IT specialists and accountants, the MSC is poring over 300m emails dating back to last 10 years. Information passed to the police is stripped of details that could reveal legitimate sources, to calm worried reporters.

One focus of the MSCs work, a person close to the group said, is the system that allowed journalists to make cash payments to sources. The Sun has long told readers it paid for news tips, but some critics believe reporters might have disguised the identity of their sources when seeking cash from their superiors. The scale of those payments and how they were accounted for remains unclear.

FATE OF THE SUN

The happenings at Murdochs British companies have caused massive stir at News Corp. Experts believe the investigations’ slow and agonising pace is proving more corrosive than the prospect of trials and potential conviction.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP and phone-hacking target, raised concerns that journalists were paying the price for News Corps actions. I would much rather that The Sun came under new management, he said in a statement. “The tabloids problems were endemic”, he argued while adding: It wasnt just one rotten apple, it was a whole orchard.

Experts believe getting rid of The Sun and using its proceeds to fund the Times would be the best way forward for News Corp.

According to Michael Wolff of The Guardian, Murdochs companies are poisoned by his own aggressiveness, as well as by the culture of British tabloids itself.

Americans simply are not bothered what happens across the pond, said Jamie Riddley, a senior journalist at a leading American Publication based in Dubai. If the happenings at The Sun poses even an atom of threat to News Corp, the board would not think twice before washing their hands off it. Only Rupert would suffer, more pointedly his ego, he added.

Media experts believe selling The Sun and using the proceeds, estimated by experts to be around $787m to $1.1bn to endow an independent trust that will run the Times and Sunday Times, will ensure another generation of quality newspapers in Britain.

Source: The Guardian, WSJ, FT

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