Why I’m not Cheering the News of the World’s Demise.
So this Sunday’s News Of The World will be the last, after over 150 years James Murdoch has announced that News International’s biggest selling paper is to close. You’d think this would be a cause for celebration for us on the left. A blow has been dealt against the Murdochs and for journalistic integrity.
But is it really such good news. Already we hear that the Sun will move to a 7 days a week schedule, so Murdoch will have just as many papers on sale each day and by sacrificing the paper and appearing to take on board the criticism levelled at them has he made it easier to gain control over BSkyB? Will the outcome of this sacrifice be greater, not lesser, control over our media by Rupert Murdoch?
And what of the staff at the News of the World? What happens to them? If the Sun moves to publishing 7 days a week no doubt some of them will keep their jobs, relocated from one publication to the other, but it seems likely that many will not. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see significant losses in admin and IT staff, in receptionists and security and many other positions. Are they all complicit in the events that led to today’s announcement? I would say they weren’t, but, unlike Rebekah Brooks, who still has a job, they’ll be the ones to suffer.
There are those, of course, who would say that everyone knew what the paper was like and just as they feel no sympathy with staff who lose their jobs when an arms company closes a factory so these workers are paying the price for where they chose to work. But when there are 5 people unemployed for every vacancy can we really blame people for taking any job they can get? It would be great if we could all choose not to work unless we could find an employer we agreed with, but the reality for most people today is that that is not possible. So much as I’d like to see the arms trade shut down, and right wing newspapers, I don’t cheer when job losses are announced, even at companies I dislike.
What we need is a Just Transition, where ordinary workers aren’t the ones to lose out, and are helped to find alternative, more ethical, employment. Be that collectivising a failing factory and reorienting production towards more socially useful ends — turning an arms factory into one building electric cars or wind turbines, say — or sacking the editorial team at a paper not the staff.
What we should be calling for is a break-up of the centralised control of our media that currently exists, with more democratically and locally accountable papers, rather than the fewer and fewer titles owned by a smaller global elite we are seeing instead.
Today’s news won’t move us any closer to that ideal and may strengthen Murdoch’s control in the long run, allowing this to be pushed under the carpet, the real culprits to survive and more costs to be cut. Who knows, maybe the Murdochs have just been waiting for a chance to collapse the Sun and the News of the World into a single, more efficient structure but due to the papers’ long history couldn’t do it without a good excuse. One we just handed to them.