- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rupert Murdoch bashing was all the rage yesterday 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 yesterday 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 yesterday 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. Murdoch 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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