Rupert Murdoch is probably more used to selling ads than buying them, but a seismic international scandal can do strange things to a media mogul.
The News Corp. head placed a letter of apology in every national newspaper across Britain, according to The Guardian, in the latest attempt to get control of the narrative in a hacking scandal that has ended his News of the World paper, killed a $12 billion television deal, and put a growing number of editors under arrest.
PR specialist Mark Borkowski told The Guardian:
"It feels a bit old-school but in some ways underlines that newspaper adverts can still have an effect. It's classic damage limitation mode. Rupert Murdoch's taken charge of the situation and gone back to what he understands best."
The letter, signed by Murdoch, says the shuttered paper “was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.” It also states, “Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society. We need to live up to this.”
Friday, Dow Jones CEO and former News International head Les Hilton became the second high-profile person to step down in the spiraling scandal, which earlier in the day claimed the career of embattled former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.
Despite a growing chorus of voices in and out of Britain’s government, News Corp. at first shrugged off allegations that journalists hacked the phones of murder and terrorism victims. As long ago as 2009, Murdoch refused to talk about the growing story. On Thursday, FoxNews show ”Fox and Friends finally acknowledged the scandal with its usual commitment to "fair and balanced" journalism.
But in recent days the company appears to have decided on a more aggressive strategy, hiring American PR and lobbying firm Edelman. The New York Times reported this week that News Corp. also hired top criminal lawyer Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., who successfully defended Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal.