Written by Noemi Pollack on July 19, 2011.
There is something to be said about the choice of words, or put differently, the art of wordsmithing.
The full page ‘sorry’ ads taken out in the major British newspapers by Rupert Murdoch over the weekend, certainly seem inconsequential in light of the calamitous series of consequences that resulted from the illegal practice of phone hacking employed, approved and accepted as normal policy by Murdoch’s top level journalists and editors. For goodness sake, laws were broken and private and public lives were exposed, hurt or damaged, political favors were encouraged,sought and won — all in the pursuit of scooped news.
Sorry? Just doesn’t do it.
The resignations are piling up by the hour and just Sunday it included, of all people, the head of Scotland Yard. The unfolding story of intrigue and back room deals has embroiled politicians, police and, in essence, brought into question the very ethics of the UK media industry. Trust in journalism has been chipped, or tainted…
And you get a ‘sorry’? It just won’t do.
‘Sorry’ described as apologetic in the Thesaurus, is too flippant a word in this case. You say sorry when you bump into someone in the mall or when you spill something during a meal or if you forget the wine for a hostess. Nobody cares right now if Murdoch is sorry. It’s too late for that, for the incredulous story has spiraled out of control. It is akin to the example of running a red light while driving and inadvertently killing someone. What does one say to the family, ‘sorry’?
A ‘sorry’ won’t rehire the 600 employees who lost their jobs on the spot with the closing of the 168-year old tabloid. A ‘sorry’ won’t hide the collusion of politicians and police who silently acquiesced or participated with the phone hacking scheming. A ‘sorry’ won’t save those senior executives and editors who stumbled and mumbled in the immediate aftermath something about “not knowing anything” or “not having anything to do with such policies,” — those same ones that were arrested over the last few days and carted away,
In Murdoch’s own words in the ad, an apology is not enough. So what is?
Immediate indignation might have served him better. Murdoch would have done well to invoke President Truman’s favorite line, “The buck stops here” instead of offering a ‘sorry.’ He could have said, instead, that he takes full responsibility for whatever policies were set by his executives, for whatever practices were implemented under those policies, for the little oversight that allowed and perpetuated the illegal behaviors, for the damages that these caused and that he will personally ‘promise’ (a better word than ‘sorry’) that the ethics of journalism will be reset at all his publications with strict checks and balances in place.
A ‘sorry’ is too meaningless to save his Empire. Maybe nothing will. Time will tell.