Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Simon Cohen

GET UPDATES FROM Simon Cohen
 

Murdoch's SOS

Posted: 24/02/2012 00:00

Would the Sun have survived the hacking scandal if the News of the World had been called the Sun on Sunday (SOS)?

Probably not. The closeness of brand The Sun to the doomed Sun on Sunday would have sounded the death knell for the daily tabloid, forever linked with the Sunday's criminality and dishonesty.

They might have tried to re-brand the daily, to The Moon perhaps, with a rethink on the Page 3 offering, but few discerning people would swallow it.

And we're more discerning than ever. If the main reason for the Sun's survival is its distance from the News of the World brand, what are we to make of the prospects for SOS? With five senior Sun journalists recently arrested on suspicion of bribing police officers and senior officials, the mighty Sun is probably relying more on the success of its Sunday publication to secure its own position, rather than the other way around.

It takes more than a week to brand and design a newspaper from scratch - this has been some time in the making. The decision to launch the SOS so soon after the arrests, and with so much pressure from News Corps shareholders in the US and UK, reflects the extent of the crisis within Murdoch's empire.

So how do we respond to Murdoch's distress call?

Firstly, with compassion. The birth of any baby, regardless of its parents, is a moment for hope and reflection. Stories of a more family focused editorial stance, and a cover up (of the positive kind) are encouraging.

Perhaps the most appropriate response to the SOS call, is to offer some friendly Sun-style advice, about how to build loyalty for the nascent brand:

Buck up! Only improved ethical standards and quality journalism will do. Champion the dignity of all human beings, in all that you do, and you won't go far wrong.

Fed up with being fed up. President Clinton recently said that we have entered the 'age of how'. We know there are problems in the world. We're fed up with being fed up. The plummeting circulation figures of all the national dailies tell their own story. What are the solutions? We are surrounded by amazing people doing amazing things. Tell us about them.

Good news makes a killing. The secret is out - good news sells. Sensational, conflict-driven media never build loyalty or trust. They're simply not sustainable. It's no coincidence that The Huffington Post recently launched its Good News section, and others are following suit. Ouest France, the most read francophonic newspaper in the world, has seen its circulation rise while others around the globe falter. The paper has strict ethical editorial guidelines. Coincidence? There's real money to be made in the solutions business.

Tweet Us Nicely! When Murdoch launched the Sun in 1969, we didn't have the same tools of discernment as we do today, because the technology and diversity of communication channels simply didn't exist for the masses. The media spoke at us, rather than with us. Today, success is predicated on two-way engagement. SOS launches at the time of Twitter, Leveson, the Arab Spring, Duck Ponds, and Citizen Journalism. Rupert Murdoch's SOS falls on deft ears indeed. Listen to the masses, or watch us walk away.

There is much riding on the response to Murdoch's SOS call. The relationship with the Sun brand means that the daily giant itself is at stake. How we, the readers, respond to the call is equally important. We are hugely powerful. Not only are we media owners, mobile phone users, tweeters, bloggers and global citizens, we are the gate-keepers to the success of SOS. Our choices to purchase papers, to speak up when we see a lack of balance or justice, is already shifting the media landscape. How we speak up is also key. We can choose to be ranting readers and bang on about the problems with our media, or we can choose to be the media we wish to see in the world, raise our voices and help drive solutions in the spirit of compassion and justice.

By setting an example, as powerful consumers, SOS and other emerging media will need to take a more solutions-driven, positive and ethical editorial approach. Positive press is where the smart money is, and anything else will simply be found out in the Age of the Discerning Reader.

As Buddha himself said, "Three things cannot be long hidden: the Sun, the Moon, and the Truth."

 

Follow Simon Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/globaltolerance