Media watchdogs nip at Murdoch

News of the World scandal produces chorus of criticism

As federal authorities conduct inquiries into whether U.S. laws were violated in the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, it has galvanized public interest groups who’ve long been critical of the media conglomerate.

They’ve seized on the scandal to show that it is not contained just to Britain, but is indiciative of larger problems in the News Corp. culture.

Media watchdog Media Matters for America, perhaps the most persistent critic of News Corp. and Fox News, has given nonstop coverage to the scandal for more than a week, on its blogs and on sites it launched before the latest revelations of phone hacking at News of the World.

A spokeswoman for Media Matters said that the average weekly web traffic to one of its sites, News Corp. Watch, which is kind of a one-stop shop for all things gone wrong in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, has increased tenfold since the story broke.

The org has put together a running analysis of how much attention each of the three cable news networks are devoting to the scandal, with a bar chart showing the scant coverage Fox News had devoted through last week compared with its competitors.

Others have linked the scandal to the perils of media consolidation and the influence of money in politics. Free Press, which has had an ongoing campaign called Save the Press, has characterized the whole affair as a problem not unique to Britain but endemic to media that get too “cozy with power.”

Meanwhile, Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog of liberal media bias, weighed in on Monday with its own take.

While the org’s senior analyst, Roger Aronoff, called the hacking activities “quite despicable,” he cautioned that it was premature to “assume individual criminal liability, or that Rupert Murdoch media properties in this country engaged in similar practices. We were reminded in the DSK case that the presumption of innocence still matters in this country, despite the charges.

“The left smells blood, and would love to see Fox News in particular somehow implicated and weakened by this scandal,” Aronoff added.

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