Murdoch’s home run
The scene is reminiscent of “Casey at the Bat.” It’s the ninth inning, two out and two strikes against the batter.
Still, somehow, Rupert Murdoch smacks the ball out of the park with one crack of the bat. Mr. Murdoch’s months-long pursuit of Dow Jones, parent of the Wall Street Journal, comes down to one hotly contested vote. And he is victorious.
The real game in New York this year isn’t the Yankees, so far back they are about as close to the lowly Orioles as they are to the division-leading Red Sox. Mr. Murdoch’s quest for the Journal is the only game in town.
The game began about four months ago. Mr. Murdoch’s offer of $5 billion for the company was reviled by reporters, media critics and the Journal’s union.
But the knocks against Mr. Bonds are far more serious. They stem from allegations of unfairly augmenting his ability with steroids. Mr. Murdoch never needed that kind of help. The knocks against him highlight his business skills and that he is what NBC’s Andrea Mitchell called “deeply conservative.”
That combination poses a unique threat to an industry drowning in red ink. Rather than embrace Mr. Murdoch’s commitment to journalism, the news media tried to make sure he struck out.
The night of the July 31 sale announcement, the biases against Mr. Murdoch were obvious. ABC, CBS and NBC trotted out experts from such hallowed institutions as Editor & Publisher magazine, the Columbia School of Journalism and CNBC.
Reporters failed to mention that the first two organizations are wildly against the sale to Mr. Murdoch — just like the industry itself. And Mr. Murdoch has already declared he will be going head-to-head with CNBC when he launches a new business network in October. The purchase also threatens CNBC’s existing deal for the Journal to provide content to the network.
The Columbia Journalism Review compared “the charming Rupert Murdoch” to a “scorpion” in a parable claiming he “would misuse that paper’s journalistic power.” Why? It’s “his nature,” went the July/August editorial.
Dean Starkman, who handles The Audit for CJR’s Web site, has authored 20 pieces criticizing Murdoch since the offer was announced. He has the audacity to expect the owners to reject an offer $2 billion above the recent value of the company. “[T]he Bancrofts would need to sell their shares (at a price far below $60, I’m afraid),” Mr. Starkman wrote on July 19.
Similar boos were heard from others in journalism. Editor & Publisher called the offer “another squirrelly takeover proposal” and said Mr. Murdoch would “dismantle the Journal’s extraordinary package of news pages.”
The Journal’s union, IAPE 1096, went from complaining about current owners to prospective owners. The Bancroft family, which has run the firm for 100 years, was criticized just a week ago because “management negotiators weren’t willing to come close to what we needed to achieve in such vital areas as health care and pay.” Now that union already is asking Mr. Murdoch for the contract the Bancrofts never gave.
Throughout this contest, reporters and editors have opposed Mr. Murdoch as if he was a threat to journalism. The New York Times Aug. 1 story claimed one “veteran reporter” said: “We held a wake. We stood around a pile of Journals and drank whiskey.” The poor dear. He should have been drinking whine.
Beneath the empties in the Times story was the real reason for journalistic opposition. The sale “also gives a larger voice in national affairs to an owner whose properties often mirror his own conservative politics.” Mirroring Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s liberal politics is OK in journalism. Just don’t be conservative.