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A key part of Rupert Murdoch's testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee this week was that he didn't feel responsible for the phone hacking uncovered at the News of the World because responsibility was delegated to, and then betrayed by, "the people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people that they trusted.”

A key part of Rupert Murdoch's testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee this week was that he didn't feel responsible for the phone hacking uncovered at the News of the World because responsibility was delegated to, and then betrayed by, "the people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people that they trusted.”

It's of course  reasonable to argue that one man at the top of such a massive organisation should not be able to monitor everything happening at every level. It's even plausible, perhaps, that these practises were not known about, let alone sanctioned by senior management much closer to the "action" in the UK.

But is this a case of genuine or merely "plausibile" deniability on the part of Murdoch, Brooks, Coulson and the like? I guess we will see over the coming weeks.

But it's always worth considering the subtle, implicit ways in which organisational imperatives can be culturally, and unconsciously enforced.

Years ago as a spotty school leaver I fired off hundreds of letters looking for work experience and was amazed and delighted to get an offer from the Times. I spent a couple of very enjoyable and interesting weeks working in their offices in Wapping with staff who were unfailingly charming, kind and welcoming. As I remember them, the pleasant airy, industrial, wharf-conversion offices were lined with the usual  journalistic bric-a-brac - files, photos, books, and the odd cartoon, but mainly pretty functional. But I noticed a difference when I went on a couple of occasions to deliver stuff to the neighbouring office of the Sun. The walls were lined with framed copies of every great Sun front page - "Gotcha" - and the like. The atmosphere felt more charged, more febrile somehow.

This surrounding "wall of fame" must have been a constant reminder to the assembled journos that what mattered was the scoop, the headline, the hit. There could be no doubt that this is what was valued above all.

Of course this was a matter of professional pride, and in itself relatively trivial. But taken together with all the other subtle cultural cues you wonder how much power these cultural cues exert.

Responding to the testimony of both on Newsnight earlier in the week, the "accidental whistleblower" Paul McMullan said that Brooks had never told him directly in her capacity as editor to hack a phone. But he had the impression that was what she meant when she would insist that he just "make sure" a particular story happened. Did she really mean that, or was her injunction, and the way it was interpreted, just another way in which the culture subliminally exerted its influence.

Every workplace has its ways of conditioning its employees with certain norms of acceptability. They quickly become second nature, and everyone adept at reading the signs. Enforcement might be through the passive aggressive use of emails, or the subtle ways in which hierarchy and compliance are enforced through meeting dynamics and inclusion in working groups.

To keep an outsider perspective on these things is hard when we ourselves become assimilated. We can learn from those who are new, or those who struggle to ever become "trained" in this way. A fascinating site I came across recently called Asperger Management acts as a support forum for those with Aspergers/ASD who find these social cues unfathomably hard to read, and as a result, office politics deeply baffling and frustrating. There are some wonderfully frank accounts, and suggested survival techniques, for painfully dull meetings which serve no logical purpose.

Often it seems that these cultural cues in relatively hierarchical, dynastic organisations are conditioned by the habits, signals and behaviours of those at the top. My old boss, the don of polling - Sir Bob Worcester - was (and is) a phenomenal collector of data, paper, files and articles. I wonder how much of that rubbed off in the rest of our offices, and in our image of ourselves as researchers, as our shelves were usually jammed were sets of data tables, articles and reports going back over many years.

Murdoch may have moved way upstairs (and overseas) from the days when he regularly stalked the corridors of Fleet St and Wapping, but what traces did he leave in the hearts and minds of those who worked for him, and what cultural norms did his influence give rise to, and which in turn led people to do what they thought was expected of them. We may never fully know the influence of such subtleties, but remembering that visual shrine of headlines on the walls of the Sun, it seems that a picture really can tell a thousand words.

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