Even though News Corp has survived the hacking scandals, a deeper cancer has emerged. How it deals with this cancer will determine whether it can succeed without Rupert Murdoch. He forged his empire based on an implicit contract with his readers. They trusted him as someone who gave them voice. He has betrayed that trust. Under the necessity of self-preservation, News Corp provided the police with evidence against its employees. The leadership betrayed the reporters and their sources. By extension, it has done something much worse. It has betrayed its readers.
Each is a problem, combined the betrayals become a cancer. Let us look at these in turn. The first relates to the employees, the second with the sources, and the third with the readers.
If employees do not trust the company, can it survive?
The employees have been sacrificed. Their loyalty to the organisation has not been repaid. The employees were loyal in doing the company’s business. When it profited the company, they directed their work and rewarded them for their success. Yet, when the time came to defend the employees, it betrayed them. In light of that betrayal, who would want to work for News Corp? How can you trust that what they ask of you will not lead you to be betrayed? They profit from your work and then betray it when they find it convenient.
Why would source trust a newspaper that betrays them?
The second trust issue is with the sources. The sources have been betrayed. For a news organisation whose business model relies on sources for leaks, tips, and stories, this is catastrophic. Without such sources, what will it do? Why will a source sell them story or bring it to them? If you were a source, would you do business with them? They suborn you; use your story to sell newspapers for financial profit and political influence and then they betray you to the police. Is it worth a prison term to be a News Corp source? Even though this is bad, the third trust issue is fatal.
Why would you read a newspaper that betrays its readers?
At the third level, the company has betrayed its readers. For a company that prides itself on knowing its readers and giving them a voice, it has demonstrated the ultimate contempt and betrayal. Instead of being loyal and trustworthy, what its readership embody, the company has shown itself to be duplicitous and willing to betray its employees, sources, and its readers for profit and influence. It has sold its readers a lie. The leadership chose power over the people, the rich over the poor and the strong over the weak. They sold their readers and their trust to the highest political bidder.
If the future of social media is trust, can News Corp recover it?
The trust issues raise the following questions that the company must answer if it is to survive.
- Why would someone want to work for a company that will betray them?
- Why would a source trust them with a story?
- Most importantly, why would anyone read a paper that treats its readers and their concerns with contempt and disdain?
Unless News Corp can answer these questions, the cancer will become terminal if it has not already.