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The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch Paperback – May 4, 2010
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If Rupert Murdoch isn’t making headlines, he’s busy buying the media outlets that generate the headlines. His News Corp. holdings--from the New York Post, Fox News, and most recently The Wall Street Journal, to name just a few--are vast, and his power is unrivaled. So what makes a man like this tick? Michael Wolff gives us the definitive answer in The Man Who Owns the News.
With unprecedented access to Rupert Murdoch himself, and his associates and family, Wolff chronicles the astonishing growth of Murdoch's $70 billion media kingdom. In intimate detail, he probes the Murdoch family dynasty, from the battles that have threatened to destroy it to the reconciliations that seem to only make it stronger. Drawing upon hundreds of hours of interviews, he offers accounts of the Dow Jones takeover as well as plays for Yahoo! and Newsday as they’ve never been revealed before.
Written in the irresistible stye that only an award-winning columnist for Vanity Fair can deliver, The Man Who Owns the News offers an exclusive glimpse into a man who wields extraordinary power and influence in the media on a worldwide scale--and whose family is being groomed to carry his legacy into the future.
An Interview with Michael Wolff on Rupert Murdoch
Q: Over the years, Rupert Murdoch has built a personal fortune worth $9 billion and a global media empire that includes more than 100 newspapers, the Fox movie studio and television networks, satellite TV systems in Europe and Asia, the book publisher Harper Collins, and MySpace. Despite that, he has continued to be regarded as an outsider, an interloper at the establishment ball. Is that perception of him accurate, or is it an image that he has carefully cultivated to serve his own goals?
Michael Wolff: I think both are absolutely true. Rupert Murdoch came into this business as an outsider and he continues to see himself as such, no matter that he owns everything, controls everything, and is the central person of our time. He continues to see himself as an outsider and it gives him enormous happiness, joy, and a reason to get up in the morning to stick it to, I guess, the rest of us.
Q: In 2007, Murdoch mounted a successful $5 billion bid to acquire Dow Jones, a drama that occupies center stage in your narrative. Why did he pursue Dow Jones and its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal? Was it an expression of the opportunism for which he is legendary, a bid for respectability, or both?
MW: It was a bid for a newspaper. Murdoch is a newspaper man--a man who is consumed by newspapers. His reason for being is newspapers. The Wall Street Journal is arguably second only to the New York Times, the best newspaper in the world--and Murdoch had set his sights on it long before he had any hope of getting it. That’s one of the interesting things about Murdoch: The fact that he has no hope of realizing his dreams is never an impediment to him. With Dow Jones, he was just there and just wouldn’t go away, and, finally, as in all things, it comes to him.
Q: Murdoch has said that he is “proud” of the enemies he has made. Why does he instill such strong feelings of fear, contempt, and even outright loathing in so many people? What is it about him that gets under people’s skin?
MW: The truth is that he doesn’t go along. “To get along, you go along” is not a Murdochian turn of phrase or turn of mind. He is a man who, because he comes out of the newspaper business, has fought newspaper wars and newspaper-like wars wherever he’s gone. There’s always an enemy, and an enemy gives Rupert a reason for being, it gives structure to the fight, it gets him up in the morning--and it means that at the end of the day, there’s always a winner and there’s always a loser. There’s no middle ground, there’s no ambivalence with Rupert Murdoch.
Q: The title of your book, The Man Who Owns the News, calls to mind outsized media moguls such as Henry Luce, William Randolph Hearst, and William Paley, men who relished ownership of their media properties and used them not just to build their fortunes but also to influence politics and society. Do you see Murdoch as a continuation of that historical tradition? And, if so, is he the “Last True Mogul,” an anachronistic throw-back in today’s world?
MW: The point is that Rupert Murdoch is so much bigger than any of these men. The world has never seen someone like Murdoch. He has held power literally longer than any politician, any businessman, any celebrity in our day and age. For thirty years he has been at the top of his game, more influential than anyone else across that period of time. So you have to see Rupert as absolutely sui generis, absolutely unique. We will, I doubt, ever see the likes of Rupert Murdoch again.
Q: In reporting your book, you gained an unprecedented level of access to Murdoch himself, as well as to his family members and most trusted lieutenants. How were you able to gain such access? And did Murdoch try to impose any conditions on your reporting?
MW: Absolutely no conditions were unimposed. The answer to how I gained such access remains entirely unclear to me, and I think, certainly for the first couple of months as I sat interviewing Rupert, that it was entirely unclear to him. I think he looked at me, kept looking at me, and kept asking himself, “What is this guy doing here?” This is partly a function of the unique culture of News Corp. I think Rupert’s people thought that Rupert wanted me to be there, so I kind of found my way in. But I must say that this was cooperation beyond my wildest dreams. They never said no to anything. Even when I went to Australia and spent the day with Rupert’s 99-year old mother, he called ahead and said, “Oh, tell him anything,” and she did. It has been one of the seminal experiences of my long journalistic life.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
By no means has Michael Wolff given the world the definitive biography of Rupert Murdoch. Several critics, especially those in the United Kingdom, felt that he had not even written a factually adequate one, leaving out major episodes and making several major errors. Others wrote that Wolff has written an interesting book but that it never truly penetrates the "secret world" of its subtitle. But like the tabloid newspapers upon which Murdoch built his empire, The Man Who Owns the News offers so many titillating details that reviewers found it difficult to put down. Add in the fact that its foundation was an encounter between two of the most enigmatic and controversial characters in today's media elite, and it may not even matter what's true and what's not.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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--they are all liberals, with the exception of Dad and son James. Although Murdock does not even THINK words such as old or age or senior, it is Wolff''s opinion that Murdock has mellowed into a more liberal person . He attributes this change, to his 3rd and very young wife Wendi. Her friends, and now, his friends tend to be from the world of glamour. We are allowed to peek at this family and see them, warts and all. We find the same family quirks and endearing traits observed in all families. Remembering that this is the modern blending of 3 families, with 3 sets of children and tons of money, it is a miracle that the Murdock's are still a family unit, which they are in every sense of the word. Much of the book is about Murdoch's need to buy The Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. None of his previous acquisitions have made him an "insider". He craves to own and be respected for the ownership of a pretegious company. Maybe the ownership of these papers has allowed him to relax and enjoy his 7 homes and yacht. Wolff attributes his leaning toward liberalism to the fact that he has finally come out into the world. Now he has a young wife , young children, The Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal. and orange hair.
Michael Wolff makes Murdoch seem like a bumbling hick from Australia. Murdoch is an Oxford graduate who has built a multinational media empire. He owns a film studio, cable channels and a publishing company. He loves newspapers but seems to hate the establishment. Wolff is a snob with a New York centric worldview. He prose is very flowery and I found the book annoying. It reads more like a gossip mag than a biography. The definitive biography will probably only be written after Murdoch is dead. His many enemies in the media and political world are probably too scared to dish the dirt while he is still alive.
For many in Britain, he ruined the Press with his style of trashy ethics-free journalism. David Mellor was a successful lawyer who became one of Margaret Thatcher's ministers, Her successor, John Major, made Mellor responsible for overseeing the media. In that capacity, he appeared to support new regulation of the Press. Mellor soon found himself a target and his affair with an actress became front page news in a Murdoch tabloid. The gory details of the story were presented in a manner designed to humiliate Mellor. Mellor has accused Thatcher of selling her soul to Murdoch. Murdoch was willing to back her when other media moguls would not. Mellor claims that she allowed Murdoch to take control of over 40% of the British media and this left her successors in a weak position. None of this is in the book.
I was hoping for something similar to the excellent, hard-hitting PBS documentary from 2012. This reported on Murdoch’s problems in Britain where his newspapers became arrogant and out of control. They were caught hacking the phones of politicians, the Royal Family, and celebrities. PBS presented Murdoch almost as a mafia don heading a crime family. Prime ministers kissed his ring. Policemen were bribed and lied to protect him. Other newspapers were cowed and did not investigate the egregious behavior of Murdoch’s employees. He ruled by fear and intimidation and anyone who challenged his business interests risked their careers. His papers used private detectives to find dirt on his enemies and then published the results. Eventually, his subordinates overstepped the mark and the public forced their reluctant politicians to act. It was investigative reporting from the Guardian and also the New York Times that brought him down. Murdoch's reputation was badly damaged by the scandal and politicians are no longer as scared of him.
In the U.S. Murdoch has been less powerful, even though he owns Fox News, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Fox News has changed American politics and some claim it sets the agenda for the Republican Party. Murdoch is a complex and enigmatic man but Wolff was the wrong biographer. It needed an investigative reporter not a gossip columnist. Wolff was given access to Murdoch and his family, but he wasted the opportunity. He let Murdoch off the hook and fails to explain what motivates the man.
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