At a Parliament hearing into phone hacking by News Corp. journalists, James Murdoch, the head of European operations, performed the dual role of protector of his 80-year-old father Rupert Murdoch and executive in charge of the inner workings of News of the World, the tabloid at the center of the allegations.
It was, at times, an impressive performance. "I thought James quite articulate," former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines told ABCNews.com after watching Tuesday's hearing. "He was impressive to me."
Would it be enough to save his job?
Raines didn't think so. "They're going to have to throw someone high up under the bus. There's just too much there," he said.
Raines resigned from the New York Times in 2003 amid the newspaper's own scandal after a reporter, Jayson Blair, had committed plagiarism and fabricated stories.
In recent days, the elder Murdoch had publicly defended his son, who's been under fire for decisions he made including approving a payment of 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to hacking victim and Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor. But Tuesday, James Murdoch seemed to be defending his father.
"It seemed like James was stepping forward to shield Rupert's reputation, like he saying, 'He's an old man. Beat on me, if you have to beat on someone,'" Raines said.
At times Rupert appeared to be somewhat befuddled by the committee members questions. When James tried to answer questions directed at his father from committee member Tom Watson about the specific goings-on at News of the World, Watson interrupted him. "It is revealing in himself what he doesn't know and what executives chose not to tell him," Watson said.
"Clearly he's not gaga," Raines said about Rupert Murdoch. "But I'm pretty convinced he's been much detached from the operations of the larger company."
Indeed, Murdoch said as much when asked about how hands-on he was at News of the World. "Perhaps I lost sight," he said, adding that the now defunct tabloid accounts for "less than 1percent of our company."
"I may have been lax for not asking more," the senior Murdoch said.
At the same time, he portrayed himself as very much involved in the company, saying he works 10 to 12 hour days and "can't tell you the multitude of issues that I have to handle every day."
When asked if he would resign, Rupert said no, adding that he was "the best person to clean this up."
During the hearing, both father and son seemed to stick closely to their script, which involved expressing personal regret while deflecting questions about criminal wrongdoing, citing the ongoing police investigation.
Rupert Murdoch, arguably the most powerful media mogul ever, said in his first words to the committee, "This is the most humble day of my life."
"Their game plan was to be humble and contrite but without opening any doors into the inner workings of the company and what they knew," Raines added.
Stockholders seemed pleased with what Raines called the Murdochs' "hunkered-down" approach, as News Corp shares were up more than 5 percent.
In an aside, Rupert Murdoch recounted the pride he felt in his father, who started the family business by purchasing a newspaper in Australia, and said he hoped one day that his children, including James, would take over the business.
James Murdoch had been considered his 80-year-old father's likely successor. It was the son who announced the News of the World's closing two weeks ago, saying the paper's good deeds "have been sullied by behavior that was wrong; indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."
Now it seems questionable whether there's a place for James, his father or any member of the Murdoch family if the multibillion-dollar business that Rupert built is to survive.
"I think he's finished, over, toast. He just has no credibility," Michael Wolff, the author of the Rupert Murdoch biography "The Man Who Owns the News," told Bloomberg television Monday. "I think Rupert is as involved in this as James, but James ran this show and was in charge of the management of the scandal. He was in charge of the people who committed these crimes. He is the directly responsible executive."
"Seems to me that the family is going to have to put forward a new candidate," said Raines, who writes a media column for Conde Nast Portfolio. "If I were in that family I'd think about seeing my future financial prospects very much at stake right now. The value of the company is plunging. If the family has the capability of installing someone they should."
"My overall view is that it is very unlikely that any of senior management including James can survive," Raines said.
Wolff agreed it's time for new blood. "This company has a fine future. There's nothing wrong with the company per se," he said.
But it's clear the company will change, and the closing of News of the World is just the beginning. The entire newspaper division, which the Murdochs built their fortune on but has been seen lately as an expensive indulgence by independent board members, could be at stake.
There's also talk in Britain of doing away with the vertical integration of media ushered in by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago, which allowed Murdoch to buy newspapers, production companies and a stake in British Sky Broadcasting.
The U.S., which has launched an FBI investigation, could consider similar moves.
"I think it's the end of an era," Raines said.
He thinks the moneymaking movie and television studios and television networks will exert more influence going forward.
But he said the editorial future of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, especially during the upcoming presidential election, are "very much in question" given the credibility issues being raised about News Corp in general.
As for Fox News' wily chairman and Rupert Murdoch's close ally, Roger Ailes, Raines said, "Don't rule him out. Ailes is the real survivor. He could come out of this on top."