We’ve heard of “warp speed” and “internet time”. Now there’s “Murdoch Standard Time” — the speed at which a youthful 77-year-old megalomanic media mogul moves in the final years before he dies.
Yesterday Rupert Murdoch had a big day. He sacked the editor of his newest and most prestigious property, The Wall Street Journal (the term used, of course, was “resigned”), and he almost finalised a $600 million deal to buy Newsday, the powerful daily newspaper that covers the wealthy heartland of Long Island.
In one sense those two characteristic moves were all in a day’s work for the world’s hungriest media owner. But in another way they suggest a recalibration of Murdoch Standard Time, a sense of urgency and recognition of mortality by an “old man in a hurry”, as blogging mogul Nick Denton describes him today in Gawker.
“The aging press magnate can deny the reality by wearing black polo-neck sweaters on the urging of his much younger wife,” notes Denton, “but he doesn’t have much time to conclude his legacy.”
After sacking/redeploying/reassigning so many editors over so many years, Murdoch’s removal of WSJ Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli was greeted with indignation mixed with inevitability inside the hothouse world of American journalism.
“Brauchli’s resignation is a billboard-sized sign that the world’s leading financial publication is abandoning the qualities that made it great in the first place,” wrote Dean Starkman on the Columbia Journalism Review website. But most others just shrugged in a that’s-what-Rupert-does-so-why-is-anyone-remotely-surprised way.
Brauchli’s resignation memo to his staff was studded with all the usual code language that has marked most Murdoch palace coups — “I am proud to have been part of this exceptionally talented team”, “now that the ownership transition has taken place, I have come to believe the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing”, etc.
According to the WSJ itself, the 46-year-old editor of less than a year was “summoned” to a meeting with News Corp’s recently-installed heavyweights at the Journal, who “suggested it might be better to have their own person running the newspaper”. After that it was just a matter of price and days.
Nothing changes in Murdochville, it seems, except that the clocks have been adjusted. Employees, competitors and shareholders be warned. The old man is in a hurry.
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