We in the UK are used to a press that is not only raucous, but also well versed in spinning for a particular agenda. This has not been the case in the USA, where the papers maintain an almost cautious even-handedness and objectivity, such is their desire to avoid the charge of “yellow journalism”. Or rather, they did until one Keith Rupert Murdoch came to town.
Rupe now owns not just the likes of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), but also the tabloid New York Post. He would like to get his hands on more titles. The behaviour of the Post has justifiably contributed to a wariness on the part of owners and authorities to his so doing: the paper’s apparent disregard for mere facts shows every sign of mirroring the modus operandi of the Sun.
Recently, the Post has attracted condemnation for apparently comparing African-Americans to monkeys, and last December ran a photo of a man who had been pushed onto the track into the path of an approaching Subway train – and who was subsequently struck and killed by it. But it was the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that brought the strongest criticism.
After the explosions, the Post asserted that 12 had died, while other news outlets gave the officially confirmed figure: two, then amended to three (quoting bigger numbers of deaths is a Sun speciality, even extending to the Herald Of Free Enterprise capsize outside Zeebrugge harbour, despite many of the casualties having been on cheap day trips promoted by the, er, Sun).
Rupe’s stateside downmarket troops then switched to another Sun favourite, that of kicking Muslims, especially if they are also Arabs. “FBI grills Saudi man ... smells of gunpowder” screamed the headline. The story was untrue. Error-strewn copy was also published by the supposedly upmarket Wall Street Journal, which was recently acquired by ... Rupert Murdoch.
It got worse. The Post then splashed a photo of two men on its front page below the headline “Bag Men”. They asserted that “Feds Seek These Two”. “Investigators probing the deadly Boston Marathon bombings are circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line, The Post has learned ... photos being distributed by law-enforcement officials among themselves”. All untrue.
And, far from apologising, Murdoch tried to dump the blame onto the authorities, not unlike the way the now-closed Screws tried to suggest that the Police were the ones at fault in the Millie Dowler case, rather than the Murdoch hacks who had been badgering them to pursue false leads – like the one on the Post’s front page which tried to finger two innocent men.
No doubt the hacks involved will all proclaim their independence. Yeah, right.