‘Dance of death’: Mur­doch’s Wall Street Jour­nal casts news­room gloom

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Ru­pert Mur­doch bash­ing was all the rage July 31 among those con­vinced that his pur­chase of the Wall Street Jour­nal would sully the news­pa­per for­ever.

“The prospect of the Aussie vul­gar­ian lord­ing over the pa­per has whipped up an end-of-days gloom across the na­tion’s news­rooms,” ac­cord­ing to a New Repub­lic mag­a­zine edi­to­rial.

“Mur­doch will tar­nish a jour­nal­is­tic jewel,” said MSNBC colum­nist David Sweet.

Mr. Mur­doch’s News Corp. reached an agree­ment to buy the 118-year-old Jour­nal on July 31 af­ter re­ceiv­ing sup­port from a ma­jor­ity of the Ban­croft fam­ily, which owns it. Some find the deal alarm­ing.

Mr. Mur­doch runs a “pro­pa­ganda net­work” and the sale of the pa­per is a “dance of death,” Eric Al­ter­man said in the Na­tion.

“That he devalues the priv­i­leges and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the press in Amer­ica mat­ters lit­tle to Mur­doch, who ap­pears to care noth­ing for tra­di­tional no­tions of re­spectabil­ity and treats jour­nal­ists as no more im­por­tant than the peo­ple who use his news­pa­pers to wrap fish and chips,” Mr. Al­ter­man ob­served.

Mr. Mur­doch, 76, owns more than news­pa­pers, though. Among his hold­ings: 20th Cen­tury Fox, Fox News Chan­nel, the Fox en­ter­tain­ment net­work, three Euro­pean satel­lite net­works, the Weekly Stan­dard mag­a­zine, the Times of Lon­don, the New York Post, the Aus­tralian and MyS­pace.com.

“This takeover is bad news for any­one who cares about qual­ity jour­nal­ism and a healthy democ­racy. Giv­ing any sin­gle com­pany — let alone one con­trolled by Ru­pert Mur­doch — this much me­dia power is un­con­scionable,” said Robert McCh­es­ney of Free Press, a me­dia watch­dog group.

“Mur­doch’s em­pire wouldn’t ex­ist if he hadn’t been aided and abet­ted by Wash­ing­ton pol­icy-mak­ers in Congress and at the FCC,” he added.

The crit­ics were in full dra­matic mode for a variety of rea­sons.

“Mur­doch brings to­gether two things that many jour­nal­ists think ru­ins their pro­fes­sion: money and con­ser­vatism,” said Robert Lichter, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs.

“Jour­nal­ists like to see their work as a noble pro­fes­sion rather than a busi­ness, and they be­lieve that money trumps ideals. Mur- doch is the devil to the old guard, who be­lieve he per­son­i­fies what is wrong with the pro­fes­sion to­day,” Mr. Lichter said. Some call for a lit­tle gra­cious­ness. “Ru­pert Mur­doch has been an in­vestor in ma­jor U.S. me­dia out­lets for years. Th­ese jour­nal­ists should be happy he’s in­vest­ing in a hard- copy pa­per,” said Brent Baker of the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter.

“The only log­i­cal as­sump­tion is that they’re up­set about his pol­i­tics, which they see as right wing, par­tic­u­larly his own­er­ship of Fox News. News­pa­pers may have to sur­vive by be­ing part of a larger con­glom­er­ate to share costs. If the Wall Street Jour­nal thrives, then they should be happy about it,” Mr. Baker said.

Some say he won’t change things that much.

“It’s highly un­likely Mur­doch is go­ing to shake the pa­per up sig­nif­i­cantly for prac­ti­cal rea­sons,” said Robert Steele of the Poyn­ter In­sti­tute. “He’s start­ing up a new fi­nan­cial cable net­work and needs a stable of eco­nomic jour­nal­ists who can op­er­ate on a global level.”

Mark Fitzger­ald of Ed­i­tor & Pub­lisher mag­a­zine agrees.

“Is Ru­pert Mur­doch go­ing to turn the Jour­nal into his own per­sonal tout sheet? I doubt it. But there are gray ar­eas in the propo­si­tion that bother peo­ple. They just don’t trust him,” Mr. Fitzger­ald said.

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