The difficulty is that nothing, not even the arrival in Britain of Rupert Murdoch bearing reassurance, can automatically put the Sun on the survival list now. The procedures that Murdoch and his News Corporation board have sealed in place make such certainties impossible. This is an almost fatalistic process.
News Corporation in New York has its managements and standards committee operating here. That committee, led by Lord Grabiner QC, is independent of Wapping. It does not tell Dominic Mohan, the Sun editor, when some of his most senior staff are about to be arrested; it simply passes millions of emails to the police, on site, running Operation Elveden, the investigation that is hunting corrupt cops, civil servants – and journalists offering cash for information.
Elveden, as its supreme commander, deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, told Lord Justice Leveson last week, is boosting its numbers from 40 to 61 in order to trawl this Sun material in detail. These inquiries are “nearer the beginning than the end”.
Meanwhile Sun journalists are being arrested at a rate not far short of two a week as this investigation proceeds. At this pace, there may be nobody left to bring out the paper in 12 months – and any reassurances will be redundant. Nor is there much that Murdoch can do about it.
But then take three weighty factors into account. One is that there’s all the difference in the world between arrests and charges. Scotland Yard, even today, may not want to see dozens of reporters and editors hauled into court to defend themselves, each in different circumstances, against charges of “aiding and abetting” crime. Was anyone here, waving a cheque book, pursuing a clear public interest story? Will it, some weary years on, seem sensible to adopt a blanket approach?
Another is whether reporters paying up for a story are responsible or merely following higher editorial – and thus company – demands. Where does the buck stop? At James Murdoch, at Rupert himself?
Dr David McKnight, Journalism and Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales, has just released a book on media mogul Murdoch.
McKnight’s book Rupert Murdoch An investigation of political power, is available from: