Mur­doch: An­gel or devil?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

First, the dis­claimer: I ap­pear on Fox News Chan­nel, one of Ru­pert Mur­doch’s me­dia prop­er­ties, as a paid con­trib­u­tor. I re­ceived nei­ther in­struc­tions, nor prom­ises of ben­e­fits, in ex­change for what I am about to write. We now re­join our reg­u­larly sched­uled col­umn.

The grotesque amount of con­de­scen­sion from the elite me­dia con­cern­ing the pur­chase of Dow Jones, which in­cludes the Wall Street Jour­nal, by “me­dia mogul” Ru­pert Mur­doch is as­tound­ing. You would think Hugo Chavez had just bought the news­pa­per with his oil money and an­nounced an im­me­di­ate tilt to the left. Come to think of it, the elites would not have found that as of­fen­sive, be­cause Amer­ica al­ready has a na­tional news­pa­per that mostly re­flects Mr. Chavez’s left­ist views. It’s called the New York Times.

In a nos­tal­gic es­say for The Wash­ing­ton Post, David Ig­natius wrote about the good old days when he worked for the Jour­nal and ex­pense ac­counts were as lib­eral as some of the re­port­ing. Mr. Ig­natius claims — with­out proof — “that as the com­pany’s eco­nomic for­tunes de­clined, so did some of its jour­nal­ism” and that “the Jour­nal’s edi­to­rial page in­creas­ingly did its own re­port­ing, with equal por­tions of jour­nal­is­tic hus­tle and ide­o­log­i­cal spin, and it of­ten over­shad­owed the news side,” which he sus­pects “helped un­der­mine the fran­chise.”

He spec­u­lates, “Ad­ver­tis­ers per­haps weren’t en­thralled with a news­pa­per dis­tin­guished by vit­ri­olic right-wing at­tack edi­to­ri­als.” Never mind that the edi­to­rial page ed­i­tor dur­ing the pe­riod Mr. Ig­natius re­gards as flawed — the late Robert Bart­ley — won a Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Ig­natius ig­nores the of­ten vit­ri­olic left-wing edi­to­ri­als and col­umns in the New York Times, a news­pa­per that has re­cently suf­fered from a de­cline in cir­cu­la­tion — even in its core mar­ket — and been forced to lay off staff. I sus­pect that un­der Mr. Mur­doch’s own­er­ship, cir­cu­la­tion of the Jour­nal news­pa­per and its on­line edi­tion will in­crease and more staffers will be hired, as is now hap­pen­ing with the Fox Busi­ness Chan­nel, due to pre­miere in Oc­to­ber.

Most of the elite me­dia were of one mind (sur­prise) when it came to Mr. Mur­doch’s ac­qui­si­tion of the Jour­nal. NBC’s An­drea Mitchell called him “a con­tro­ver­sial press lord” and de­clared Mr. Mur­doch “deeply con­ser­va­tive,” which lib­er­als in­tend as a slur only slightly less in­sult­ing than the la­bel “deeply re­li­gious.”

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta claimed Mr. Mur­doch “of­ten” uses “his publi­ca­tions and his me­dia to ad­vance his busi­ness or his po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.” Imag­ine that. The views of New York Times pub­lisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., can be read in his news­pa­per, which con­sis­tently pro­motes poli­cies and peo­ple he fa­vors. When you’re a lib­eral, this is re­garded by the elites as “good jour­nal­ism.” When you have a dif­fer­ent view, you are en­gag­ing in pro­pa­ganda and serv­ing only your­self and your in­ter­ests.

The elite me­dia have been beat­ing up on Ru­pert Mur­doch for years, when they ought to have been ad­dress­ing the cause of their own de­cline. In­stead, they pre­ferred to in­dulge in para­noia and de­nial.

The at­tacks on Mr. Mur­doch be­gan in earnest just four months af­ter the de­but of the Fox News Chan­nel. In a tran­script pro­vided by the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter of a Jan. 19, 1997, “60 Min­utes” broad­cast on CBS, Mike Wal­lace warned omi­nously that “on Mur­doch’s new cable chan­nel the news comes with a con­ser­va­tive spin.” Who did Mr. Wal­lace cite as his ex­pert author­ity? None other than CNN founder Ted Turner, who reg­u­larly pro­moted his left-wing views about the Soviet Union, Fidel Cas­tro and other dic­ta­tors, high taxes, big gov­ern­ment, Democrats and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism when he owned and ran that net­work.

Be­fore Fox News Chan­nel was born, I told sev­eral net­work news pres­i­dents some­one was go­ing to go af­ter a de­mo­graphic that felt shut out by the main­stream me­dia. Th­ese peo­ple, I said, go to church, fly the flag, re­spect Amer­ica’s tra­di­tions and in­sti­tu­tions and hate the lib­eral me­dia. They feel cen­sored, or stereo­typed, by the me­dia elites. I told them the per­son who rec­og­nizes that de­mo­graphic and gives them a voice would reap a huge re­ward.

That per­son is Ru­pert Mur­doch. He is not the me­dia Satan, as the left likes to por­tray him. Some of the of­fen­sive (to me) tabloid stuff not­with­stand­ing, he just may be the me­dia’s sav­ior. The elites hate him, but grow­ing num­bers of peo­ple are buy­ing his prod­ucts.

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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