The Mind of Murdoch: Dreams of World Domination
We all know the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages are often filled with more conservative tripe than six Dennis Hasterts, but the actual news and reporting in the rest of the paper has been unassaillably non partisan for years.
Enter Rupert Murdoch, who thinks unbiased news is a bore and slightly liberal news is possibly treasonous. He has offered $5 billion dollars to purchase the Wall Street Journal's parent company, Dow Jones. This morning the New York Times released quite a roundup of his greatest hits.
Like the time he coerced an initially reluctant Trent Lott to back off a plan to limit any company from owning local television stations that reached more than 35 percent of American homes (at the time Murdoch had 39) by giving him a $250,000 book deal.
Here are some other highlights:
"It is hard to imagine Rupert Murdoch publishing The New York Post in Midtown Manhattan, with all of his personal and political biases and business interests reflected every day, while publishing The Wall Street Journal in Downtown Manhattan with no interference whatsoever," James Ottaway Jr., a 5 percent shareholder and former director of Dow Jones, said recently.
Members of the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones, have sought elaborate assurances from Mr. Murdoch that he will preserve the independence of The Journal's news coverage. Last night, advisers to both sides said they were close to reaching an agreement on editorial control, but it was unclear whether the Bancrofts would approve a deal. When he bought The Times of London in 1981 he gave similar assurances, but some former editors say he meddled with news operations anyway.
Mr. Murdoch declined a request for an interview, but has recently said he would preserve The Journal's independence. Gary L. Ginsberg, a News Corporation executive, said it was "insulting" for anyone to suggest that Mr. Murdoch would compromise the integrity of "one of the world's great newspapers" adding, "It's not good business and it's not good politics and it's absurd on its face."
From his beginnings as a proprietor of a single Australian newspaper, Mr. Murdoch now commands a news, entertainment and Internet enterprise whose $68 billion value slightly exceeds that of the Walt Disney Company.
The American newspaper industry has never seen a publisher quite like him. Mr. Murdoch has long been a pivotal figure in England and Australia, and in the dozen years since he has moved his base of operations to this country, he has insinuated himself into the political and financial fabric of the United States. His businesses have thrived in a highly regulated environment in part because of his remarkable ability to mold the rules to fit his needs.
This became clear in the regulatory fight over media ownership, a battle critical to Mr. Murdoch's audacious creation of a fourth national television network, Fox. He has also turned his political clout on business rivals, as he did when he mounted a campaign recently against the Nielsen television rating agency.
"Rupert is sort of an 18th-century guy: the world is still forming, and he's going to do what he can to hack out a place in the wilderness and defend it," said Richard D. Parsons, the chairman of Time Warner, who both competes and socializes with Mr. Murdoch.