Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The end of the press baron

If this whole phone hacking scandal has taught me anything, it's that the end has come for the once prestigious, dangerous and often completely mad press barons.

For centuries, the press and most of the media in our country has been run by a selected few, majority men, from an East London office overlooking the city, or somewhere more exotic.

Or, in Rupert Murdoch's case, running his company, one would presume, from space. Because it transpires that Mr Murdoch - the Australian media magnate, who owns News Corporation, one of the worlds biggest media conglomerates - despite having his fingers in practically every country, fails to know what goes on behind the scenes of one of his companies.

Yes, the story of the year has seen a whole inquiry, international criticism and millions of settlements hit the news, all down to one man. But this one man and his family fail to acknowledge any of it. They, it seems, had no idea it was going on.

The ongoing Leveson inquiry will probably uncover the real truth behind the whole fiasco, but what I wonder is, when did the media barons take a step back from their empires and stop caring?

Way back at the end of the 19th century, the media landscape was controlled by the printed press. Newspaper owners were scary characters, not unfamiliar to those of today, but they played a much bigger role in the newsroom.

Take Lord Northcliffe for example. The proprietor was running the most successful paper of the 19th century, The Times, and later started the Daily Mail. He was notorious for harassing his staff and shaped the entire content of his papers, including the layout.

He even famously told his staff 'to find one murder a day, or else!'

Of course, behaviour like this would not be tolerated in today's society, but it goes to show just how far things have come. Northcliffe was there in the office at 5am, he had the knowledge and expertise to write, produce and print the newspaper.

And he wasn't alone. Other famous proprietors - Lords Beaverbrook, Camrose and Kemsley - were all the same, and at the time, were producing some of the best quality papers of that era.

But sadly, this isn't the case now. Media companies are bigger now, and the media owners, it seems, have less control on their companies then they did in the past.

Maybe Murdoch could learn something from them? Or is it a bit too late now. I mean, he isn't getting any younger, and no way near ready to admit the truth. But it just goes to show, that despite the advancements in the media and the availability of news, we could still learn a thing or two from the forgotten world of the press baron.

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

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