News International’s Dreadful Crisis Response

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on July 19, 2011 – 6:32 am

The scandal threatening Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is remarkable not only for the allegations that it hacked into voice mail messages of murdered children and deceased soldiers, but also for the sheer ineptitude of its crisis response.

No interview during this crisis has summed up the company’s dreadful response more than this one.

Simon Greenberg, News International’s director of corporate affairs, agreed to speak with interviewer John Snow of Great Britain’s Channel 4 News two weeks ago, when executive Rebekah Brooks was still employed by the company. During the interview, Mr. Greenberg insisted that Ms. Brooks would lead a thorough investigation into the hacking scandal.

But when Mr. Snow pointed out that Ms. Brooks couldn’t possibly conduct a thorough investigation of herself since she was the editor of News of the World at the time of the hacking incidents, Mr.  Greenberg was woefully unprepared to offer a satisfactory response:

Mr. Snow’s damning line of questioning exposed the fecklessness of News International’s policy:

John Snow: “How can she investigate herself given that she’s leading the investigation?”

Simon Greenberg: “Well when we’ve got the facts, we’ll be able to establish exactly how that will be possible.”

John Snow: “Well how are you going to get the facts if you’re not going to investigate the editing?


I can’t figure out why Mr. Greenberg and News International didn’t develop a more appropriate response to this question prior to the interview.

For example, why didn’t the company immediately appoint an independent commission to investigate Ms. Brooks’ activities, even as she conducted an investigation of the rest of the staff?

And why would Mr. Greenberg have agreed to this interview in the first place if he couldn’t offer a response to such an obvious question? Not only were Mr. Greenberg’s answers damaging, but his tone came across as unsympathetic, if not outright smug. Even though he said some of the right words in the second half of the interview, he did so in a disconnected manner that appeared clueless and insincere.

As for Rebekah Brooks, she resigned last week and was arrested on Sunday for her role in the phone hacking scandal. That’s good news for anyone who wants a real investigation rather than a phony corporate show trial.

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Related: Seven Rules to Remember When a Crisis Strikes

Click Here to Listen to My Interview About This Scandal on Washington, D.C.’s WTOP Radio

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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