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Commentary

Murdoch and the WSJ

Ken Auletta takes an in-depth look at the takeover attempt of the WSJ by Rupert Murdoch — which seems to be proceeding like a juggernaut — and how Murdoch keeps his promises. Or not. An excerpt:

Those who are suspicious of Murdoch’s pledges of noninterference recall what happened when he first extended his press holdings beyond his native Australia, nearly forty years ago: he persuaded the Carr family of London to sell him the sensational tabloid News of the World, and promised to run the paper in partnership with the family that had owned the paper for nearly eighty years; he abandoned this pledge after learning, he said, that to honor it would harm shareholders because the Carrs had created “a total wreck of a company.” When he bought the New York Post from Dorothy Schiff, in 1976, he publicly pledged to leave its liberal editorial stance unchanged, saying, “The New York Post will continue to serve New York and New Yorkers and maintain its present policies and traditions”—and promptly reversed course. But Murdoch’s approach may best be seen in what happened after he bought the influential and once storied Times of London and the Sunday Times, in 1981. At the time, English journalists asked their Australian-born colleague Phillip Knightley to analyze how Murdoch might behave, and as Knightley now recalls, “The point I made was that Murdoch came from a tradition very different from European and American proprietors. In Australia, a proprietor owned the paper and considered it was his to do whatever he liked with it. Proprietors used their newspapers to support or oppose political parties, settle private feuds, and cross-promote their other interests. Any idea that they could not do this would have met with bewilderment.”
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“Creative destruction” and the WSJ

“Suck it up,” an editorial in the Wall Street Journal seems to tell WSJ staffers: “Those of us who extol the virtues of Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” for others can’t complain when it sweeps through our own industry.” The piece — in the context, of course, of the journal’s mooted sale to Rupert Murdoch or some other bidder — goes on to discuss the role of the Bancroft family as owners, and tout the WSJ as standing above other big newspapers in the U.S. in the journalistic independence of its editorial page…
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CRTC new focus of “media democracy” movement

The CRTC has become the target of a new media democracy movement, and TorStar media columnist Antonia Zerbisias has a column
about it — and the grassroots media activists,
lawyers, academics, labour groups and cultural nationalists involved.
They want Canadians to write to the CRTC by July 18, the deadline for
its September hearings on media concentration and diversity.
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“A hoot”

The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten outsources himself.
Using web resources only, he reports on some sort of Indian political
meeting with some sort of people in some sort of strange clothes, who
made lots of some sort of strange noise.

If you’re a newspaper
publisher in India he’ll sell you the rights to his story for “the
surprisingly affordable price of 80 rupees, or about two bucks.”
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Typophiles weigh in

Typophile.com has a lively discussion going on about the new Globe and Mail. Join the discussion here.
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Sensationalizing health coverage

A five-year research study at Simon
Fraser University, published this spring in an academic journal,
concludes that Canadian newspapers miss the “real stories” about health
issues and “dwell on covering the more simplistic and sensational
stories.”

Simplistic and sensational, eh. Never heard that before.

The SFU press release is here. It’s from last month but I post it here because its points are relevant to our industry.

The
study didn’t get a lot of media attention (we really don’t like
reporting on ourselves for our audience, do we) but the alternative Georgia Straight picked up
the story with a fairly thorough analysis. In her story, reporter Gail
Johnson also discussed the work of University of Victoria researcher
Alan Cassels on Media Doctor Canada, a Web site that reviews and rates news coverage on medical issues.

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