As Rupert Murdoch’s fight for control of The Wall Street Journal continues, the paper’s online edition has published a long feature detailing the sometimes controversial but always upward path of the magnate’s long media career. Perhaps, they thought, it was their last chance.
A detailed examination of Mr Murdoch’s half-century career as a journalist and businessman shows that his newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interests of his sprawling media conglomerate, News Corp. In the process, Mr Murdoch has blurred a line that exists at many other US media companies between business and news sides — a line intended to keep the business and political interests of owners from influencing the presentation of news.
Mr Murdoch’s focus on News Corp’s bottom line has often allowed market considerations to influence editorial moves, and different markets have led to starkly different approaches. In the US, Fox News has thrived by tilting to the right, filling a niche left open by its network and cable rivals. In Italy, a 24-hour television news channel launched by Mr Murdoch in 2003 has positioned itself as a relatively reliable and objective source of news — in contrast to the political bias of Italy’s more-established channels.
At all newspapers, owners have a say in broad editorial direction. Mr Murdoch has a long history of being unusually aggressive, reflecting his roots as an old-fashioned press baron. From his earliest days, like some other newspaper proprietors of the last century, he ran his companies with his hands directly on the daily product, peppering reporters and editors with suggestions and criticisms.
In an interview in his New York office on Friday, the Australian-born magnate spoke openly about his hands-on style. “When a paper starts to go bad and go down the drain, the buck stops with me,” he said. Shareholders “never ring the editor, they ring me,” he said, adding that has “once or twice” led to “very unhappy but necessary decisions” to replace editors.
He said that if he buys the Journal, “I’d love to wander around …I think people quite like it if I show interest in their work”. He added: “I can’t put $5 billion of my shareholders’ money and not be able to run the business.”
But he said he has no plans to interfere with the news operation, including stories about News Corp. “I’d complain like hell if they were incorrect,” he said. “You’d have to run what you like.”
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