The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

Category: rupert murdoch

Britain riots, Fox's O'Reilly asks: where are the guns?

BillOreilly Fox News personality and sometime media critic Bill O’Reilly thought he detected yet another case of liberal media bias last week, this time coming from England. The subject was guns.

As my "On the Media" column suggests, the recent riots in Britain have raised a lively discussion about whether social networks and cellphone communications should be limited.

O’Reilly suggested on his Fox News program that the social unrest should spark another debate. But he said “the BBC and the other liberal British press” had been remiss, failing to report how  British cops and shop owners weren't armed well enough to rein in the chaos.

If you “don’t have a gun, you’re in real trouble,” facing rioters, O’Reilly said.

"The difference between America and Great Britain is that here in America many of us are armed because of the Second Amendment," O'Reilly began. "In Great Britain they don't like guns . . . .the cops don't even carry guns."

No doubt a loaded firearm would have caused some hooligans to think twice before, as the Brits say, pinching (shoplifting) a pair of trainers (sneakers), or attempting much worse.

Of course, arming the populace can have other consequences, as O'Reilly should recall, since he was in Los Angeles at the time of the 1992 riots.

Fifty-four people died in L.A., about two-thirds of them from gunshot wounds. (Eleven of the dead were shot by police or the National Guard.) In the riots that swept several British cities this summer, a total of five died. One of them was by a gunshot. (Three others died after being intentionally run over by a car. One  man was beaten to death.)

A Los Angeles Times account a few months after the riots showed the mixed impact of private gun ownership. Widely distributed pictures showed Korean American shop owners defending their stores. But not all the gunfire went toward the right targets. The story described a group of Korean American youths who went to help the shop owners, only to be mistakenly shot themselves. Edward Song Lee, 18, died of his wounds.

Fox News Correspondent Amy Kellogg told O’Reilly last week that, despite the London riots, the debate about arming the police, or allowing more guns in the hands of private citizens, “has not come up.” O’Reilly is not ready to drop the subject, it seems. He ended the discussion predicting that, in the event of continued trouble, “the gun debate will ramp up.”

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Fox News' top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly has helped drive the entire cable network's ratings higher. Last week, he wondered why the media had so little to say about the lack of guns in rioting Britain. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times



No hacking at the N.Y. Post, says former N.Y. Post hack

New York Post's Jared Paul Stern denies hacking at paper
Jared Paul Stern certainly doesn’t have the warm fuzzies for his old employer, the New York Post. The one-time contributor to the Page Six gossip column was driven out of the tabloid after accusations, never proven, that he tried to extort money to keep one high-profile magnate out of the headlines.

But despite his estrangement from his former employer, Stern said in an interview this week that he doubts Rupert Murdoch’s rambunctious  U.S. publication has employed the phone hacking and police payoffs that were endemic at its British cousin, the now-shuttered News of the World.

“Their whole game is more sort of intimidating people or cozying up to people to get information,” Stern said the other day of gossip reporters at the Post. In more than a decade contributing to Page Six he said he never saw or heard of phones being improperly accessed. The only payments, minimal ones, went to public relations types who acted as virtual stringers for Page Six, Stern said.

Not that Stern attributes the failure to employ the so-called “dark arts” on any particularly high motives on the part of Post gossip writers.

“They couldn’t hack an electric toothbrush there,” Stern said. “There are no techno-whizzes to figure it out and they don’t have anything like the budget of those British papers. The Post hemorrhages money. They don’t have the budget for any extras.”

The Post has been reported to lose tens of millions of dollars a year. News Corp. leader Murdoch is said to keep the paper going because of his love of tabloids and because of the political leverage it gives him in America’s biggest city.

Stern experienced a brief and unwanted celebrity in 2006 when one-time supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, a close friend of former President Clinton, accused the tabloid reporter of trying to pry money out of him in exchange for keeping Burkle out of the Post.

Burkle videotaped a couple of his meetings with Stern and federal prosecutors investigated the case as a possible extortion before deciding not to file charges against Stern. The writer subsequently sued Burkle, Clinton and others, claiming that they had tried to ruin his reputation. A judge tossed the lawsuit out.

Now Stern said he is working on various projects, though he declined to go into much detail. His website on style had new entries as recently as this summer. And he suggests that his proposed memoir on life in the tabloid lane, dropped by one publisher, might have new life given the scandals sweeping the industry.

“The stuff going on now is breathing some new life into it, so I am reworking it,” Stern said of the book. “It definitely has a lot more relevance and appeal.”


News Corp. shares soar amid market rally

Phone hacking in America? English reporter comes to U.S.

Murdoch seeks to defuse investor concerns over phone hacking scandal

-- James Rainey

Photo: One-time New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern, who contributed to the paper's Page Six column, said he never heard of phone hacking or big-money payoffs while he worked for the tabloid. The paper's British cousin, News of the World, was closed after its use of the "dark arts" caused a scandal in Britain. Credit:  Shiho Fukada / Associated Press.


Phone hacking in America? English reporter comes to U.S.

GuardianRusbridger As I report in my On the Media column, the reporter who broke the story over phone hacking and corruption in the British tabloid press is coming to L.A. this week to “see whether there is a U.S. end to this story.”

Based on his email conversations with me, it’s hard to tell whether Nick Davies of the Guardian has a specific angle, or is just taking a broad look at how British tabloids and others operate in America.

Most journalists, both over the pond and here, believe that if the “dark arts” are being employed in the U.S., they are not  nearly as endemic as they appear to be in Britain.

Davies' editor, Alan Rusbridger, said he thinks trouble in the press there might be linked to the ascension of editors who began their careers covering celebrities. The editors had an anything-goes attitude, Rusbridger said, a sensibility they carried into hard news coverage when they became the top editors at their outlets.

Among those with showbiz coverage roots who went on to run British newsrooms were Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who later became chief spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, and Piers Morgan, onetime editor of the Daily Mirror and now a host on America’s CNN. Though implicated by a former Mirror reporter as having knowledge of phone hacking, Morgan has vehemently denied it.

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian’s media columnist, said he has been directly told of an agreement among British press executives to not report negatively on each other. That common interest could have been magnified, in recent months, by the realization that many of the papers might have a common problem with phone hacking. Any investigation might cascade from one newspaper to the next.

News International, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., went to some lengths to kill the hacking story. Greenslade said in an interview that he got a small personal taste of the campaign. One of News International's senior executives took him to dinner last year and, after dispensing with some niceties, began to argue that "there was nothing to the allegations and why couldn’t I bring some sense to bear at the Guardian.”

Greenslade didn’t do anything of the sort. The Guardian never slowed its reporting. And the scandal has caught up a good hunk of Britain’s press, police and political class.

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger gives evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in the House of Commons in 2009. Much of the English press ignored the testimony, as the Guardian fought a lonely battle to expose illegal phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. Credit: Press Association / AP Images

Bin Laden death brings lots of praise on Fox News, not so much for Obama

AndyCard A couple of hours into television coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden, commentators rightly congratulated a host of winners: the U.S. military, intelligence officials, the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families.

But on Fox News, at least, credit was faint, at best, for one other individual: President Obama.

The conservative cable outlet quoted a string of former Republican officials who seemed unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge, that the commander in chief had ordered the mission that took out the world's most wanted man, with no American casualties.

Stephen Hadley, President George W. Bush's assistant for national security, told Fox the successful mission by U.S. forces was a "great moment" for the military, intelligence officials and Muslims who had been victimized by Bin Laden.

Former Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card recounted how Bush had promised the mother of one of the firefighters killed at the World Trade Center in New York that he would never forget her son. Card said it was Bush's resolve that "led to the resolve that President Obama showed."

Regular Fox commentator Charles Krauthammer called the successful attack on the Al Qaeda terrorist leader a "great day for the United States." He said the mission showed America's resolve. Krauthammer didn't say anything about Obama's resolve, though the Democratic president had said getting Bin Laden was his top national security priority.

I switched to several stations through the night, so I might have missed a tip of the Fox cap to Obama. The first words of clear praise I heard came just before 2 a.m. EDT, when Greta Van Susteren said Obama would have been blamed if things went wrong. She added that, because of the mission's success: "He gets lots of credit, so does our military." 

Out on Twitter, political consultant Mike Murphy acknowledged the boost that the winning end to the 10-year manhunt would give the president. "Huge American victory," Murphy wrote. "Politics are great for Obama, not so great for continuing the current mission in Afghanistan."

Indeed, the complications and continuing threats from Muslim extremists can't be underestimated. That's as much the news in the decade-long war on terror as the death of a terrorist mastermind, in an operation ordered by President Obama.

-- James Rainey

Photo: Andrew Card.  Credit: Alex Wong / "Meet the Press" / Associated Press 

The Daily's Richard Johnson takes a swing at Nikki Finke and strikes out

Rupert_murdoch It's hard to imagine anyone who could arouse feelings of sympathy for Nikki Finke, who's been something of a one-woman wrecking crew during her tenure at Deadline, having alienated most of her old media pals with a slew of vituperative, vindictive antics before lapsing into her recent Garbo-esque silence. (When the Huffington Post sold this week for $315 million, a host of media types took great relish in dredging up Finke's original vitriolic story about the HuffPost launch, in which she confidently predicted that the Arianna Huffington-led enterprise would be a huge disaster.)

But when it comes to l'affaire de Nikki Finke foto, let's just say that Richard Johnson, the L.A. bureau chief of Rupert Murdoch's much-heralded new iPad-oriented publication, the Daily, has found a way to make Finke look, at least ever so briefly, like a victim (with Johnson assuming the role of the vulgar tabloid hag). Any hope of the Daily being viewed as a class act pretty much went out the window with the publication of this Johnson-penned non-story, which ran a stalker photo with the headline: "Is this Nikki Finke, the most powerful -- and elusive -- woman in Hollywood?"

Alas, no, it wasn't, with two of Finke's sometimes friends, IndieWire's Anne Thompson and the Wrap's Sharon Waxman, both answering the Daily's crude, search-engine-inspired question with an unequivocal no. But that didn't stop the Daily from running a stakeout-style photo of a middle-aged blond woman driving away from Finke's Westwood apartment complex. Finke also denied being the woman in the photo, leaving Johnson to goose up his copy with some unsourced speculation that Finke had called several News Corp. executives, having "intimated there would be reprisals in the form of negative coverage of 20th Century Fox should we publish the photo." Oh, golly, to have been a fly on Tom Rothman's wall when that call came in!

Just to make himself look like even more of a weasel, Johnson disingenuously added: "We certainly don't believe she would ever do that -- she is too good a journalist for those type of shenanigans." Which begs the question: If you don't believe Finke made the threats, then why did you say it in the first place? Either you believe it or you don't.  

All I can say is: Yuck! It's a big black eye for Johnson, but more important, for Murdoch's ambitions of creating a credible new journalism product. For months, Murdoch has been describing the Daily as "the No. 1 most exciting project" at his company. But right now, it looks like the No. 1 most tawdry venture at News Corp., almost as comically low-brow as the garish posters for Fox's new "Big Momma's House" sequel.     

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Rupert Murdoch in New York at the unveiling of News Corp.'s new iPad publication, the Daily. Credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters



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