It was always a matter of time before the News International phone hacking scandal washed ashore on the American side of the Atlantic. News Corporation is legally chartered here and listed on the NASDAQ, is physically headquartered in Manhattan, and controls several influential U.S. properties across a range of media. A News Corp. scandal like the phone hacking charges that engulfed its British print subsidiary is by definition an American scandal.
Long maintaining a pride of place amongst News Corp.'s U.S. holdings is The New York Post, which Rupert Murdoch purchased in 1976 for $30 million -- or roughly half of what the paper is estimated to bleed in annual losses.
Rupert Murdoch has bought other New York print properties over the years, including New York magazine and the Village Voice, but the Post has always been dearest to him. Murdoch is a tabloid creature at heart -- known for his love for short and punchy articles -- and over the course of nearly 40 years, the Post is the only American publication he's ever bought twice. After selling the paper in 1988 in an act of forced compliance with now-defunct media ownership laws, the American-naturalized mogul reacquired the paper in 1993 with a crucial assist from New York's then-governor Mario Cuomo.
It is during this most recent 18-year ownership stint that the Post has established an unrivaled reputation as the bottom-feeder of American print journalism. The paper's near-comical reputation for inaccuracy is so widespread that even Gretchen Carlson -- an anchor at Fox News, the Post's corporate cousin -- recently criticized its lack of credibility.
This is not surprising, considering that The Post was for years Murdoch's only U.S. print property staffed with his clan's inner-circle of favored British and Australian tabloid veterans. The paper lost this distinction when Murdoch purchased The Wall Street Journal in 2007 and installed lifetime loyalist and News International chairman Les Hinton as publisher. Hinton resigned this past July in the wake of growing controversy over his leadership role at News International between 1995 and 2007, when phone hacking is known to have occurred at the papers under his control.
Years before Murdoch installed Hinton at the Journal, he imported another Fleet Street product to New York in the form of Colin Myler. At the time of his arrival in 2001, Myler was all but unemployable in Britain. In April of that year, he had resigned after publishing an article in the Sunday Mirror that led to the collapse of an active and very expensive trial. Myler faced the possibility of criminal charges and even jail time, but in the end his paper was merely fined for contempt of court. Murdoch apparently intended to keep Myler in New York until the British public forgot about the incident, and he worked as a top editor at the Post for nearly six years. In 2007, Murdoch brought Myler back into the News International fold to edit the now defunct News of the World. The man who had left the UK under a cloud of his own scandal returned to deal with another editor's mess: Myler replaced editor Andy Coulson, who had just resigned in the wake of revelations that News of the World reporters had hacked into royal voicemails.
Myler probably wishes he had stayed in New York. Soon after his return to London, he took over the internal investigation that concluded hacking at the tabloid was restricted to one "rogue reporter." The next year, Myler personally advised James Murdoch to authorize a large out-of-court payment to a hacking victim. The disgraced editor has most recently emerged on the other side of the Murdoch divide. He now disputes the idea that James Murdoch was not exposed to the possibility that multiple reporters were involved in hacking. Myler's reversal, in which he is joined by News of the World's former head of legal affairs, Tom Crone, may result in James Murdoch being summoned for a second time before British Members of Parliament.
Soon after the News of the World scandal exploded this summer, questions emerged over whether similar illegal activity may have occurred at the Post. As a Fleet Street veteran, Myler provided connective tissue between News International and a News Corp. U.S. print operation. But Myler isn't the only Post figure to draw scrutiny. There is also the Post editor-in-chief to whom Myler reported in New York, the Australian Col Allan. The veteran editor is equally notorious for his taste and tolerance for sleaze, vengeance, and venom as he is for an ability to alienate and disgust his staff. Not for nothing is his Post nickname "Col Pot."
After 17 years with Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, political editor Gregg Birnbaum has reportedly quit following an argument over the paper's coverage of President Obama's tax plan.
Gawker's Hamilton Nolton writes:
We spoke to Birnbaum, who confirmed that he is "no longer employed" by the Post. But the backstory, according to insiders, is dramatic. Sources say that Birnbaum got into a huge argument Monday night with Col Allan, the paper's famously boozy and abusive editor. After the curse-filled blowup --which apparently had something to do with coverage of Obama's tax plan -- Birnbaum left the office. For good.
Newsroom arguments are common. But for Col Allan, this is a pattern. We've been hearing reports from insiders all year that the Post's ongoing staff exodus was due largely to Allan's "awful," bullying management style. It's damn near impossible to find anyone outside of Rupert Murdoch's office to say a kind word about Allan's embarassment-filled reign at the paper --particularly not over the past couple of years, when circulation has plummeted, lawsuits have characterized the newsroom as a racist, sexist hellhole, and even admirers of the Allan's particular brand of flair have consistently started grumbling that he's lost his editorial touch. Even Liz Smith called him an "absolute total shit."