07/19/2011 04:20 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2011

The Murdoch Phenomenon

When Harold Evans was editor of the Times of London back in the early 1960s, he published a book (GoodTimes, Bad Times) about his tenure at the newspaper that described his years with Rupert Murdoch as the publisher. In reviewing that book, I was struck by one anecdote he included in his memoir that described the day Murdoch came into his office and thumbed through the pages of the Times. Observing the coverage by one of his correspondents sent to Warsaw during a periodic Polish crisis, Murdoch said rather sarcastically, "I see you have the story on page one." Evans acknowledged the story's treatment, which prompted Murdoch to reply wryly, "Do you know where I would have placed the story?" Roughly speaking as I remember the review, Evans said no and Murdoch turned to page 72 or thereabouts. "That's where I would have put it."

The anecdote seemed to be a signal that Evans knew he was on his way out as editor of the Times, then Britain's most distinguished newspaper. My conclusion was that Evans would gloat some day when his judgment of Murdoch would be vindicated. Well, Sir Harold, congratulations!

Anyone with half a brain knew all about Murdoch from the time he invaded all of journalism with his purchase of dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and Britain, but also television stations. It was inevitable because Murdoch has repeatedly demonstrated an absence of ethics, decency and integrity wherever his money has allowed him to make his presence felt. Moreover, it is a terrible irony that his grandfather, Sir Keith Murdoch, was one of Australia's most distinguished journalists. His coverage of the battle for Gallipoli in 1915 ended with the dismissal of the British commander of troops there and brought Sir Keith international recognition and his elevation to become one of the most powerful journalists in the land down under as editor and/or publisher of the Melbourne Age.

Rupert Murdoch's tenure in contemporary journalism may never be what it has been in the past several decades. But the nagging issue that has only been brushed over by journalists charged with reporting the Murdoch scandal is how he and his family never seemed to care about the qualifications of those people they hired, including Rebekah Brooks, who were handed the power and influence to render the boneheaded and embarrassing decisions that have been disclosed in recent days. A journalism major could not have earned a university degree or gotten a job with those credentials. At least I hope so.