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Will Rupert Murdoch's woes cross the Atlantic?

Rupert Murdoch's troubles in the UK could spread throughout his global media empire, say experts. A lawsuit filed Monday in Delaware may be just the beginning.

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“This scandal is setting a new low bar for the fourth estate,” Levick says, with a culture of do-whatever-it-takes to get a sensational story.

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Others also see potential knock-on effects for American journalism. "The lack of ethics shown by Murdoch's powerful staffers in England is a transnational virus," writes Jeff Cohen, journalism professor at Ithaca College, in an e-mail. "News Corp. has regularly imported these British staffers to his US outlets, from the New York Post to Fox News to the Wall Street Journal."

News Corp.'s holdings span the globe. A very partial listing: 20th Century Fox, Fox News, Fox Television Studios, National Geographic Channel, 30 magazines (from Australian Golf Digest to Tattoo to Vogue Entertaining), dozens of newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and The Times of London, HarperCollins, and the Dow Jones Indexes.

Will Rupert Murdoch's empire survive?

Don’t underestimate Murdoch’s ability to weather the scandal, cautions Paul Levinson, author of “New New Media” and professor of media and communication at Fordham University. After all, Professor Levinson points out, “Murdoch has had many adversaries over many years and he has still managed to build an impressive empire.” However, he says, if any behavior akin to the Scotland Yard revelations appear in the US, “all bets are off. That would be the beginning of the fatal blow to his empire.”

Even if Murdoch weathers these accusations, his ability to do business in future media will be severely hampered, says Robert Hurley of Fordham University, author of “The Decision to Trust.”

"If the lack of trustworthiness turns out to be systemic within News Corp., the odds are that there will be future betrayals that will come out," writes Professor Hurley in an e-mail. "This will undoubtedly affect Murdoch’s US position with viewers and investors over time,” he adds.

Hurley draws an analogy to the way the Catholic Church dealt with sex scandals. The American pedophile scandal led to many fixes, he says, “but the hierarchy failed to realize that the issues were systemic and global. Subsequently betrayals in Ireland, Belgium, and Germany shocked people globally and even led the US Catholics to lose trust again,” he points out.

Trust repair is a tricky business when done well, Hurley adds, “and is a recipe for disaster when done poorly.”


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