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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Murdoch, Wall Street Journal, journalism « Previous | |Next »
August 1, 2007

So Rupert Murdoch has finally gained control of the Wall Street Journal from the deeply divided Bancroft family to buy Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for around $5 billion.'Tis a long way in his 55-year empire building from his start in sleepy Adelaide back in October 1952.

Fox.jpgIt was in the families' hands after the initial offer of $60 for the $36 shares received board approval. Murdoch wanted the WSJ more that anyone else, including the Bancrofts.

The news pages in the Wall Street Journal are about the smartest and bravest of any newspaper in America. Jack Schafer in Slate says that the Wall Street Journal played it pretty straight in terms of disclosure about conflicts of interest.

Murdoch will now control a broadcast network, a cable news channel and a national newspaper -- three of the small handful of outlets that set the US national news agenda. What we have is a multiple platform approach to gathering and distributing business and financial news, information and analysis

So will Murdoch turns the Journal into a shill for his business interests?Schafer says that:

a Murdoch-owned Journal would be a journalistic disaster because wherever Murdoch goes on the planet, he uses his enterprises to advance his personal interests and his business interests. So, my guess is that no, he wouldn't disclose News Corp.'s conflicts.

Frank Ahrens, a business reporter with the Washington Post, said on Radio National Breakfast that Murdoch wouldn't buy the Journal just to destroy it. Murdock wouldn't destroy it, as he needs the content for his new business channel on Fox that will take on CNBC

But as know from our Australian experience, Murdoch is someone who has molded journalism to serve his business and political interests and the editorial pages of his newspapers routinely call liberals and lefties cowards, traitors and criminals. However, before we get too carried away with the rhetoric about 'the barbarians at the gate' producing swill and rubbish for us, we need to remember that the WSJ's editorial pages had operated with Murdoch-like sleaze because they were run by right wing ideologues.

Media consolidation has replaced investigative journalism with infotainment, foreign affairs reporting with fluff, and local coverage with cookie-cutter content. The emerging Internet outlets do not offset consolidation's affect on journalism, Murdoch isn't going to change his ways and Washington is unlikely to start rolling back media consolidation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:41 PM | | Comments (17)
Comments

Comments

Murdoch on quality media: “All newspapers are run to make profits. Full Stop. I don’t run anything for respectability. The moment I do, I hope someone will come and fire me and get me out of the place – because that’s not what newspapers are meant to be about”

It's not beyond the realms of possibility that leftover bits of the Bancroft family and WSJ journos with a shred of self respect could jointly start up a new masthead. Here's to hoping.

Lyn,
Isn't Murdoch about power as much as he is about profit. Or I should say that the profit of the media empire gives him power, which he welds to make and break governments.

So how is Murdoch conducting his political campaign in this election? Have you been watching this angle? Are their differences between the broadsheet and the tabloids?

Murdoch, at his current rate of progress, will soon become more powerful than Bush. It does not auger well for Australia given the recent relaxing of media ownership laws.

P.S. If this comment is not published immediately, Gary, would you please indicate exactly how many times comments are vetted before one is finally approved.

Daniel,
As far as I know I've published all your comments. Are there more on other posts? If so let me know. I have checked the last couple of days --when I was at a conference in Canberra and could not publish the comments during the day.

The reason for the delay is that your URL is blogspot.com so it needs to be vetted. I receive a lot of spam from blogspot.com , and so all entries with that url are filtered to be personally vetted including this one.

I rarely ban comments--very rarely--- and then it is because of personal abuse. I've gone back to the 21st of July and found no comments of yours buried in the spam junk folder.

Daniel,
yes it is pretty clear that there is a politics and media problem in the US and that there are many people trying to deny this - or denying that there is something destructive in the relationship between the media and politics.

The politicians are part of the problem because they engage in spin and play the drip feed game.

However, most of the media are in denial about the fact that they are part of the problem. They pretend that the problem in politics is all down to the politicians. If only they were better people, we say. Or if only they made politics more interesting. Or if only they changed the way they do things.

The reality is that the media don't think there's a problem. And as soon as a politician dares to suggest there might be, the media cries foul and accuses the government of trying to gag free speech.

Murdoch is looking less spritely every time I see him now. I dont think either of his sons have his drive or media focus so a carve up of his empire will be the most likely result after he dies.

We can but hope, Les!

Thanks for the explanation, Gary. I wasn't aware that blogger presented spam problems. Sorry for any inconvenience and all my comments have been published thank you!

Cheers!

Les,
Some--eg., Neil Henry --- argue that good journalism is being destroyed by robots harvesting the goods made by newsmen and professional journalists, and then peddling the product as their news to enrich the owners of the robots.

For example, Google News is an aggregator that uses algorithms to identify top stories.

Though journalism is under siege from the new media, but Google is the most productive means of sending audience to news sites. This computer technology isn't destroying journalism per se ---it is destroying the business that once subsidized journalism.

Journalism will change in search-driven, online media world, as the days of media preaching unchallenged from a pedestal are way behind us.

The mainstream media's embrace of blogging is a new way of disseminating content. It is not a new way of relating to content----ie., having a conversation.

Les,
here's a thought. Frail he may be, but Rupert Murdoch has a big vision--to resurrect the newspaper industry by integrating print (WSJ and its website) and video (Fox and Sky news)online and building brands around the world.

So we have a onestop shop for business that will put the heat on the Financial Times. Maybe that means more free content online to increase the audience----eg., entice Gary---and attract advertising whilst keeping the current subscribers by offering more premium content.

Nan,
The shift in media power is one that is putting more tools, more choices, more media capacity overall in the hands of the people formerly known as the audience.

The decline in authority goes hand in hand with that. We bloggers are citizens with digital printing presses.

W\hat we see is so much spin---it is almost as if the Coalition were reading Jean Baudrillard. Reality is first constructed to fit policy preferences and then reinforced through continuous news management, including pressure and intimidation.

Isn't that what is happening around Haneef. They are spinning and spinning to make reinforce their construct that he is a terrorist. It's an ongoing campaign by both Kevin Andrews and Mick Kelty despite the collapse of their case. Haneef is back in living in India and they are still engaged in continuous news management.

Does this media management of the "crisis" revolve around "saving" Andrews?

Or is it spin for the proposed laws that would increase the powers of police and security agencies to engage in the surveillance of citizens without their knowledge?

Gary
Many professional journalists think that journalism is a hallowed profession requiring as much skill and training as medicine or law, and therefore deserving of guild protections.

Why is it so hard for journalists to resist the ever-present spin of those in power?

Nan,
Seems odd to me that Murdoch would spend so much on his last buy up unless it is part of a master plan that encompasses the internet.
As Gary was saying about Google News it does really control where people go so maybe this is the way Murdoch is thinking.
Gnoos.com.au looked to be a good site when it started up but it seems to have not really blossomed.

Daniel....yes a lot would feel the same as you. And a lot of journo's would be pleased to find out that they actually had opinions of their own all the time.

Nan,
because they have gradually conflated the liberal conception objectivity (reduced to balance) with the authority of government. That conflation was obvious around the reasons for the Iraq war---the press turns to government for cueing its big stories.

The Canberra Press Gallery fails to understand the consequences of this: that the ideal of a watchdog press dedicated to protecting the public interest at precisely those moments when government fails has been dumped. Dumped big time. And citizens have noticed.

The press is spinning for the government in the war on terror. They depend on the feed from the government or opposition. So the press is part of the political process instead of its independent chronicler.

There seem to be a lot of cross currents happening here. Journalists do consider themselves to be some kind of protected species in the ivory tower model, but at the same time they're so sensitive about their credibility that criticism from new media really upsets them. Possibly more than it should.

They'd be aware that a lot of people looking for reliable information are going to new media because old media is just not plausible any more. So the people they most want to impress (the informed) are the most critical of journalistic output. Using the term 'journalist' quite loosely of course.

At the same time King Rupert expects them to conform to the mindless-fest format to which we have become accustomed, if unwillingly. He also wants them online and interactive, which they're clearly not ready for.

There's a real possiblity that we'll end up seeing the old school journos and crap manufacturers catering for the uninterested demographic, and a parallel bunch catering for the interested in a much more sensitive and transparent way than they have to date.

It sounds ridiculous, but I can't imagine things working out any other way. Clearly the dumbing down of media hasn't resulted in the total dumbing down of the audience. Rupert's not stupid either. Maybe he's decided to cater to the interested.

Unlikely, but not impossible.

The power thing - dunno. I'll go away and think about it.

Gary
who is Jean Baudrillard? Is he one of those French po-mo thingys? Does that mean Murdoch is a po-mo thingy even though he is neo-con and a Thatcherite?

Nan,

You made me laugh. I'd never considered it before but Murdoch is the king of po-mo. He makes po-mo possible, he is a po-mo character himself and everything he produces is po-mo. He even has a po-mo wife and a bunch of po-mo offspring.

He's got a lot of money, but his power depends on his media empire. The power of his media depends entirely on the credulity of the public. It's illusory. It only exists to the extent that enough people believe it exists.

I sooo want one of those bumper stickers "Is that true or did you read it in the Murdoch press?"

I agree...I think Murdoch as a grand plan to be involved in Internet/media migration from one-way to two-way content, but I wonder if he knows exactly how it'll all play out. The experiments at MySpace -- turning it into a channel for ads -- have not been promising, and it's a little weird that the recent public musings about making wsj.com free so as to drive eyeballs for ad consumption have come not just from external pundits, but from Murdoch himself. I've written about the possibilities at DIM BULB if you want to check it out, at http://diimbulb.typepad.com.