ARE THEY REALLY JUST NATIONAL SPASMS?
Two stories are dominating the morning papers and evening newscasts in London and breakfast and dinner tables across the UK.
First, there’s a new investigation of an old “shocker,” as they call it here — the phone hacking of a reported 91 voice mail accounts, belonging to celebs, politicians and royalty by the News of the World tabloid.
Then there’s the “sacking” of the two tv sportscasters over off-camera sexist remarks they made about a young female soccer referee.
The scandals are intertwined: Legendary footballer Alan Gray was fired from his job at Sky Sports channel after he was first overheard saying that Sian Massey, 25-year-old female assistant referee didn’t know the basic offside rules.
Soon after, an anonymous source leaked some video clips of him on You Tube, including one where he dangled his microphone down his pants and suggested a female co-presenter should help him “tuck it in.” Gray was fired and his on-air partner Richard Keys, a former morning show anchor, resigned yesterday after a day of bizarre apologies for his behavior and remarks which included referring to a female as “it” instead of “she.”
In a radio apology, he said “Our prehistoric behavior is not acceptable in a modern world. We get it.” He also blamed his bosses and made references to “dark forces” at Sky, who he said never let him make public his apology to the assistant ref.
Here’s where the two stories intersect: Alan Gray, the first booted from Sky, is suing the News of the World for over a million dollars because his voice mail account was one of the 91 hacked back in 2006.
Crazy. Media baron Rupert Murdoch who owns a owns the majority of Sky, also owns News of the World. Just this week, he’s been trying to buy the rest of the channel, something that will need government approval. I imagine launching a lawsuit within the family, especially when the head of the family is Murdoch, doesn’t make Gray the brightest bulb in the box.
This week, there’s been a new round of “sacking” over the phone-hacking scandal. The original investigation of the events from nearly five years ago, resulted in a conviction and jail sentence for Clive Goodman, the NOTW royal editor, along with his private detective. For all these years Goodman was said to be a “rogue reporter,” acting alone.
Not so fast. The assistant news editor, the number three editorial boss, has now been sacked for an discovery in December that he allegedly hadn’t told the truth about his role in the phone hacking. Andy Coulson, who was the top editor of NOTW at the time, suddenly resigned this week from his new job, press secretary to British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Scotland Yard is now back on the case, having been widely criticized for bungling it the first round. Murdoch is reportedly very unhappy this hasn’t just gone away. And the rest are left to grapple with the degree of impact these two stories will have on our English neighbors who, despite the aggressive, often-conniving culture of Fleet Street, were always thought to be more civilized than we.
A favorite discussion this week in London centers on the point that the bosses who expressed shock and disdain for Gray and Keys work for the same company that puts photos of topless girls on Page Three. And it all sounds very familiar to those of us who have watched firings and suspensions here in America of similarly neanderthal sportscasters and newscasters.
Sadly, from my experience in America, I predict this will not be a watershed moment in England. The playing field for women in the workplace will not be leveled and there will not be an end to a free press without reporters who cross the lines.
Culturally, little changes from scandal to scandal. Neither Anita Hill or Hannah Storm or any of the women in between have sparked a revolution. It is still a slow-moving evolution, one that is often hampered by sexist women in the workplace as much as the men.
They are the ones who have a variety of issues with their women bosses, or maybe they just have issues. They are the ones who perfer bosses who act more like a father than a mentor. They haven’t figured out the boss who gives you a hug, is the boss who acts inappropriate.
They don’t really understand that the boss who calls his subordinates nicknames is not an enlightened man, especially when it is a nickname like “Duchovny,” after David Duchovny, the actor who has been in sex rehab and now stars in “Californication.”
They are the women who want to be not just the first female in the corner office, but the only one.
It is why I suggest the stories in London are not really national scandals, but rather just spasms. By definition, a scandal is an action or incident that, when revealed to the public, may have a negative impact on the people involved. A scandal is more likely to be a teachable moment.
On the other hand, a spasm is rarely a an event from which one learns. It is a sudden and often brief spell of activity, more of a involuntary convulsive movement that happens when you’re not really thinking about it. Usually, after some degree of pain and discomfort, it goes away until the next spasm, and the one after that.
It is only after many, many spasms that people become fed up enough to try to figure out the source of the problem. Spasms just aren’t life-threatenting, so in our busy lives, it’s easy to ignore them for the longest time. But oh, what a great improvement in our quality of life when they are gone.