Tag Archives: Rupert Murdoch

Paying For The News in South Africa

By Casey Bukro

Journalism in one form another is going on all across the world.

Sometimes it’s not quite recognizable as we in the United States know it. Makes you think.

In South Africa, the grieving parents of slain model Reeva Steenkamp hired a British agency to manage media organizations that will pay the Steenkamps a fee for their story.

That’s called checkbook journalism, and considered unethical. The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics urges journalists to “avoid bidding for news.”

Barry and June Steenkamp said they resorted to the fee-for-information approach because they were “overwhelmed” by the number of media organizations across the world that wanted interviews.

The Cape Argus reported that while many look askance at the practice, “there is sympathy for those caught in the middle of of a so-called media circus and who succumb to the pressures of interacting with journalists seeking an exclusive interview.”

Olympic athlete and boyfriend Oscar Pistorius was charged in Steenkamp’s death.

Paying for news was at the root of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. phone hacking and bribery scandals.

In that case, a culture of checkbook journalism led to bribery charges against four former News Corp. journalists.  News Corp. also closed its News of the World in the wake of a phone hacking scandal.

The Columbia Journalism Review calls checkbook journalism a “slippery slope.”

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Picture This, A Newspaper With No Photographers

By Casey Bukro

Journalists are hardened by now to the continuous drumbeat of layoffs and cutbacks ripping through journalism these days, so it’s not easy to shock them.

But many were shaken by the news that the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of 28 full-time photographers, planning to use freelance photographers and reporters to shoot pictures.

It’s ironic, really. The Sun-Times is a tabloid, dating to 1844, which built a powerful reputation on the smart and creative use of photos. Of the eight Pulitzer Prizes won by the paper, two were for photography. It was known as a picture newspaper.

What was management thinking? In a statement, it said the “business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news.” Their vision is a video newspaper. Management usually has the final word in such matters.

Sun-Times reporters joined the laid-off photographers in a peaceful demonstration outside the newspaper building. The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics says everyone, including our colleagues, is deserving of respect.

The laid-off photographers are taking it like the professionals they are.

But how many set-backs can a great newspaper take?

When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the Sun-Times in 1984, it was recast in the gaudy Murdoch image, complete with bikini-clad pinups. It was his idea of what sells newspaper. Murdoch seriously misjudged Chicago, thinking it was a blue-collar town of steel workers. Some of his star columnists defected in disgust. And they keep going.

After selling off assets, Murdoch sold the Sun-Times and left it weakened.

In 1994, the Sun-Times was bought by a company controlled by Canadian-born press baron Conrad Black. In 2007, Black was convicted of fraud and stealing $60 million from company stockholders, and sent to jail.

And now, new management is set to work its magic. Let’s hope the Sun-Times catches a break this time. It could use one.