What Story Is the Murdoch Story?

July 25, 2011

MARTY KAPLAN, director, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, and professor of entertainment, media and society:

“Following several days of coaching by lawyers and PR experts, it must have been really rattling for Rupert and James Murdoch when showtime arrived to learn that the parliamentary committee questioning them would not permit opening statements. Framing, after all, is the name of the game. To control the package that the narrative comes in is to control the meaning of the story. No wonder Rupert Murdoch felt compelled to interrupt his son at the top of his first answer to say, “This is the most humble day of my life.” That was the frame his team had planned, not some “what did you know, and when did you know it?” storyline that the committee wanted to pursue. It would have spoiled everything to let Watergate frame the day, and not King Lear.

But to my ear, Murdoch’s intervention was one odd note off. Why “humble,” and not “humbling”? “Humbling” would have had Murdoch acceding to forces beyond his control, would have him admitting to past arrogance, would have conveyed the sting of just deserts. Declaring it “the most humble day of my life” was too on-the-nose, the error of a neophyte screenwriter who tells rather than shows. It came across as a naked attempt to pick the day’s sound bite, an image consultant’s advice blurted out as a talking point. Interrupting his son in order to say it was an eruption of the very arrogance that he intended to declare extinct.”

For the full commentary, visit The Huffington Post.

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