The recent phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper has finally reached American soil, with several Senate Democrats calling for an inquiry into alleged phone-hacking that may have included families of Sept. 11 victims.
While Murdoch and his band of eavesdropping cronies may face belated repercussions for their decades-long lapse of judgment, it is unlikely that any changes will occur within the lucrative business of tabloids and celebrity-gossip.
Some may not be familiar with Rupert Murdoch, but many have likely contributed to his channels’ ratings. He is the billionaire CEO of News Corporation – a media conglomerate with a global influence that is nearly unmatched – and according to Forbes magazine, is one of the most powerful people in the world. Murdoch is a staunch Republican whose media empire includes nearly 200 newspapers, the Fox Entertainment Group, and Fox News, a media outlet often criticized for political partisanship and right-wing bias.
Murdoch is now at the center of a widespread scandal, with allegations that his British tabloid, News of the World, hacked into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, crime victims, and the royal family.
His employees are also being accused of paying more than 100,000 pounds in bribes to police in exchange for information, and using the News of the World to interfere in a murder investigation in which both suspects had ties to the tabloid.
The tabloid culture may be deplorable and tasteless, but it’s also big business.
Consider the 23.7 million readers that logged onto Yahoo’s celebrity gossip page “omg!” in March, or the 45 million adults who read People Magazine every month. The scandal-mongering News of the World was no slouch, either, with a weekly circulation of about 2.7 million copies.
As long as celebrity gossip and pop culture remain a major source of income for major media conglomerates, their practices are not likely to change.
While we may love to decry the unethical practices of garbage-peddling tabloid writers, and condemn the perversity of long-lens wielding paparazzi, the old adage “money talks” has never rung more true.
We are junkies for drama – hooked on pop- culture and addicted to sensationalism – and we’re not likely to get clean any time soon. So give us a line of TMZ, a syringe of People Magazine, or a hit of American Idol; the Western world is desperate for a fix and we’re willing to pay.
Our money is talking: it says tabloid journalism is here to stay.