When You Take Murdoch’s Leftovers, You Get Murdoch’s Sleaze

Real estate developer and media mogul Mort Zuckerman has picked Colin Myler to be the new top editor for his New York tabloid, the Daily News. That’s a surprising choice on at least a couple of accounts.

One is that Myler’s last job was at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, which was shut down while he was boss due to the scandal over News reporters hacking into people’s voicemail for scoops. True, the phone hacking seems to have happened before Myler got there–but he seems to have been brought in by Murdoch not so much to clean up as to cover up, to judge by his acknowledged deception (Guardian, 12/15/11):

Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press standards, Myler was challenged over a letter he wrote to the PCC in August 2009–a month after the Guardian first wrote that phone hacking was widespread at the News of the World (NoW).

Jay, counsel for the inquiry, told Myler his reply to the PCC was “disingenuous” given that he had seen the so-called “for Neville” email a year earlier, which revealed that hacking at the NoW went wider than a single “rogue reporter” and prompted a £700,000 payment to football boss Gordon Taylor.

Responding to Robert Jay QC, Myler said: “I had no reason not to give them a full and frank answer. For that I apologize.”

But Myler’s involvement in scandals hasn’t all been after the fact. Before being sent to the News, he worked at Murdoch’s New York Post when that paper’s scabrous ethics came under scrutiny. Here’s Rolling Stones‘ summary (8/3/11):

The newspaper was rocked by a scandal in which a star Page Six reporter allegedly attempted to shake down billionaire Ron Burkle for “protection” from the gossip sheet, telling him, “It’s a little like the Mafia.”

Burkle secretly recorded Page Six reporter Jared Stern offering to go easy on him in the gossip sheet in exchange for a hefty payoff. “We know how to destroy people,” Stern reportedly threatened. “It’s what we do.” To shield himself from character assassination, Stern allegedly suggested, Burkle could make a one-time payment of $100,000, followed by monthly installments of $10,000.

News Corp. axed Stern, dismissing him as a rogue reporter and calling his behavior “highly aberrational.” But according to a 2007 affidavit by a fellow Post veteran, the alleged shakedown was an integral part of the company’s culture. “The spineless hypocrites in senior management at the New York Post and News Corp. have always used ‘expendable’ employees as scapegoats for the misdeeds of its senior executives,” Post reporter Ian Spiegelman testified. Spiegelman revealed that Page Six’s top editor Richard Johnson and two others had accepted cash from a restaurateur whose business had received a positive mention the day before. Johnson also allegedly accepted a $50,000 all-expenses-paid bachelor party to Mexico from Joe Francis, the founder of Girls Gone Wild, whom the Post subsequently hyped as “the next Hugh Hefner.” Spiegelman further charged that Col Allan, the Post‘s top editor, received free lap dances at the strip club Scores in return for favorable coverage by the paper.

Myler, as the Post‘s managing editor, was Johnson’s superior when all this going on; it was Myler who handled Burkle’s complaints when the billionaire wrote to the paper to complain about the shakedown (New York Times, 4/7/06).

Tom McGeveran of Capital (7/8/11) last year wrote up some more Myler-related scandals, including his resignation as editor of the Daily Mail in 2001 after his paper’s interview in a soccer-related assault case led to a mistrial, another mistrial that stemmed from the Post‘ s singling out a juror in a corporate corruption prosecution, and his defense of News of the World “investigations” that involved prostitutes tape-recording orgies and the like.

It’s been suggested that part of the appeal of hiring Myler for Zuckerman is that neither of them like Rupert Murdoch. That’s true of plenty of people; it’s not a good enough reason to put someone in charge of your newspaper.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.