Wapping: legacy of Rupert’s revolution | Business | The Observer
It was another misjudgment. Technology made newspaper production cheaper, not better. It was an error to believe that technology represented the dawn of a golden age just as it was a mistake to believe the Wapping plant had been constructed as the home for a new London evening paper.
With the printers and support staff dismissed and the journalists in denial, Murdoch was ready for his final confrontation with the scribes and sub-editors.
Project ‘ultimate humiliation’ was in full flow. The only hiccup in Murdoch’s planned rounding up of his hacks into the Wapping pen was when the late Ken Fleet, the Times City Editor, revealed Murdoch’s plans to his colleagues.
The idea had been to hand-deliver to each journalist’s house on Saturday morning an ultimatum – come to Wapping or be fired. But Ken’s intervention allowed the union to orchestrate a response. The editor Charlie Wilson was forced to stand shaking on a table before his staff at Holborn’s Conway Hall on the Friday night. As his neck was engulfed in a creeping red raw rash his vision of the future was unconvincing.
The response from the journalists over the next two days in meetings was altogether more eloquent and articulate than all Wilson’s veiled threats. But for all the posturing, the bluster, the brow beating and the rhetoric, there was no hiding from the ultimate reality. Murdoch was asking the journalists to take him on. At a stroke campaigners and upholders of justice were shown to be no more than hired hands. Murdoch had shattered journalistic self-respect and self-esteem.
Through Wapping Murdoch set the tone for a compliant and non-confrontational press. He dealt a body blow to journalism from which we have not yet fully recovered.