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The Last Great Newspaper War?

Rupert Murdoch addresses the Wall Street Journal newsroom on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007, the day his $5 billion-plus bid for Dow Jones & Co., which owned the Journal, cleared its final hurdle. (AP)

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Rupert Murdoch, master of Fox News, turns 79 a week from today. Fear not for his health. His mother is a spry 101.

But as he approaches 80, says my guest today, Murdoch — the News Corp. chief, owner of The Wall Street Journal, and last of the great, old-fashioned press barons — has one more great goal: to topple The New York Times from the top of the American news business. Topple the Times’ values and perspective and power and replace them with his own.

Murdoch values. Murdoch power. Can he do it?

This hour, On Point: Rupert Murdoch versus The New York Times.


Gabriel Sherman, contributing editor at New York Magazine and a special correspondent for The New Republic. His cover story on Rupert Murdoch, “The Raging Septuagenarian,” appears in the current issue of New York.

Alan Mutter, former columnist and editor at the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and  former CEO of three Silicon Valley companies involved in broadband delivery and online media technology.  He writes commentary on technology and media on his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur.


Listen back to our show on Murdoch vs. Google, with Michael Wolff, Jeff Jarvis, and Steven Brill.

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  • Brett

    The quality of the WSJ went down considerably when Rupert got his mitts on it

  • Michael

    The man who turn the news into the national inquirer,where pesky facts and objective is thrown to the curb for opinions, bring on Far right wing radio host to (haha) bring to news.

    This man will go down as being the Guy who destroyed the news and installed the crazy right as a emotional dishonest center and anything else is liberal media bias.
    Where ratings means more than news and facts.

  • Jim

    If the New York Times keeps providing facts and FOX News keeps providing political, incendiary opinions, then the it is quite sad to say Times might eventually lose. Most Americans prefer hard core and fictional opinions over facts. Facts equates to liberalism which America cannot accept.

  • Elaine Decoulos

    Last week, News International, a Rupert Murdoch company in Britain that publishes the News of the World, was heavily criticized in a British Parliamentary Report over their widespread bugging of cell phone voicemails and refusal to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation.

    There was a report on this in the New York Times and it was widely covered in Britain by The Independent and The Guardian papers. Most of the other papers gave it scant coverage.

    The Committee’s Report on Press Standards in Britain makes for disturbing reading:


  • Gary

    People LOVE yellow journalism, and investors LOVE profits. Rupert will win…again and again.

  • Tom from Boston

    The layoffs at the NY Times are having a noticeable impact. The quality of reporting has slipped in the past four years (even the copy has more typos). One byproduct of the cost cutting has been an increase in political coverage and in opinion pieces. These two areas are cheaper and a lot easier and a lot more fun than digging for real news. The WSJ is following this same pattern. Meanwhile, the readers suffer (without even realizing it). I don’t know what the solution is. The Times needs to figure out a way to extract $$$ from either Google or readers.

  • Monica S

    Poor New York Times. Already weakened and Murdoch wants to deliver a body blow. While listening I’ve just started up a paper subscription to NYT again.

    So much news, so little time to read… but


  • http://m.mcd@cox.net Maureen McDonald

    I would not buy a Murdoch newpaper if he captured the Delphic Oracle as head of the news department.

  • Paul

    Murdoch drives me nuts, but I’ve been reading the WSJ for years (along with the Times). The Journal has been a terrific newspaper with well-crafted general news stories for some time. Despite the Opinions section, the general bias of the news content has been center-left. If Murdoch does not dilute that quality, and manages to expand the general/metro news, he may have an edge over the Times.

    Still, I don’t think the Times is going anywhere.

  • http://pinkears.com kim from meriden

    I’m at home this morning, listening. As soon as I heard the premise for today’s show I went to the NY Times website and signed up for the Weekender plan. We can’t afford it, but I refuse to stand by while the Foxification of the Times is considered.

  • Sunil

    This is ridiculous. Who is this guy that is slobbering all over “Rupert”? Murdoch is the one that is arrogant and self-important. What utter crap.

  • BG

    A great topic of conversation, Murdoch versus NY Times. The blur of legitimate news coverage versus opinion based new coverage is a trend that should come with a disclaimer. Murdoch promotes yellow journalism in his newspapers to sell newspapers. It is unfortunate that readers do not see through his money making tactics.

  • Marina Hackett

    We must remember, that whilst Rupert Murdoch is the primary personality in this equation, James Murdoch is heir. He is the one to whom we ought to be addressing this discussion, too.

  • Garry

    The guest reporter is clearly supporting Murdoch. Key phrase times owner feels sef-important, as if Murdoch doesn’t.

    Also, I believe the free press as described by the founding father’s was done to ensure no government agenda was hidden from the people’s view. Murdoch in my opinion has made the spin of conservative issues key. I don’t believe they report balanced news they report bias. If you have to tell people that you’re balanced than I think News Corp–Fox News doth protest too much.

    Any rational person of integrity can rip apart any statement made by the News Corp empire.

    If not for Fox America would be in a far better place.

  • Kelly C

    What about the role R.Murdoch had in the propaganda Fox sprouted in the run-up to the Iraq war- creating a climate of calling people unpatriotic and even traitors for questioning the motivations and supposed evidence of the Bush adminstration? America, we did not learn our lesson- this is a dangerous organization that can lead through propaganda to the deaths of many innocent people

  • Garry

    With respect to Murdoch using sensationalism just to sell papers I don’t believe that is his primary goal. His goal is to sway panic. A few months after the editor of the Wall Street Journal stepped down because of interference it was reported that Lehman Brothers might not be solvent. An immediate run occurred.

  • Garry

    I would like to see News Corp broken apart like the telecommunication companies a couple of decades ago. Only this time we should not allow them to come back together under a different too big/monopoly.

    At a minimum no US News agency should be owned by outside interests even if currently allowed via dual citizenship.

    Our news should not be about sensationalism and to be quite honest that’s why I stopped buying news papers. It was clear the papers were biased and not just reporting the facts. I also realize that prior to Murdoch there were others who used the news to move forward thier own agendas.

  • Garry

    I believe if not for Murdoch and his agenda the Republican Party would have been more interested in doing what is right for America vs what is best for Murdoch and the interestes he represents.

  • Tom from Boston

    Just look at the NYTimes homepage. The top three stories are all about politics. There’s also a story lower down about Obama and the GOP on healthcare. Enough with the political coverage! The press has turned politicians into celebrities. Why, for example, wasn’t a reporter able to break the Toyota story before deaths occurred? We need reporters digging for real news, not covering politicians in a way the allows them to merely get their agenda into the news.

  • troll doll

    Would be an epic tragedy.

  • Leo

    NYTimes bias reporting is destroying it.

  • Garry

    Drug dealing and organized crime is lucrative too. In my opinion he is not trying to be the best paper, he is trying to control the news that is reported and to put spin on it that best suits his interests.

  • Todd

    It matters little who owns the America’s major newspapers; they’re nothing more than the propaganda tools of the ruling oligarchy.

  • Garry

    I also agree that the NY Times has been biased with its own agenda. I just am more comfortable with a real America newspaper vs a media conglomerate run by someone who to me has a contempt for America’s taking the side of the underdog. From what I have seen from Fox News coverage, if you are the underdog or have had some bad luck they will spin it that its your fault, or God taking revenge on you. In principle I don’t give these reports the time of day, but so many people seem to buy it hook line and sinker. Bias and hatred seems to feed a lot of people unfortunately.

  • Neil

    Hey NY Times!

    If you need the money, I would be willing to PAY for the privilege of reading your paper on-line so that you can stand up against Murdoch and his trashy, slimy, yellow journalism. What a disgrace!

  • Aaron

    I enjoyed the show.

  • Bob Gardner

    I question whether Newscorp or Murdoch financially can accomplish what today’s guest thinks they can. Lot’s of newspapers have other business interests. But they all are struggling. I don’t see that Murdoch’s business model is all that different.
    The difference is that there seems to be this mystical belief in Murdoch’s ablility to make money no matter what he does and no matter what conditions are like.
    There was another guy who made a good living by convincing people to believe in his ability to make money in all kinds of markets. I wish I could think of his name.

  • peter nelson

    I would like to see News Corp broken apart like the telecommunication companies a couple of decades ago.

    Good grief! NewsCorp is not a monopoly or even anything remotely like a monopoly! Anyone can find as many different and disparate sources of news as they want.

    Ma Bell, and for awhile the RBOC’s, were true monopolies. In many places today the local cable company or local ISP is a monopoly. Worry about those; not Newscorp.

    Our news should not be about sensationalism

    “News” is a product like anything else – let the market decide what it “should” be about. If there’s a market for serious, in depth, balanced journalism then it will happen. Personally, I read The Economist. Many people think it’s a magazine but they call themselves a newspaper.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    @ Maureen McDonald:

    “I would not buy a Murdoch newpaper if he captured the Delphic Oracle as head of the news department.”

    Great post/quote. I agree.

    That said it’s not all Murdoch, it’s also the illiterate readers and watchers of his “news” who meet him halfway. Murdoch has just figured out better than anyone else how to cater to them (us).

  • Ryan T

    While the NY Times is a great news gathering organization, it’s achilles’ heel is its weaving of left wing politics into its analysis. The WSJ is much more concise in their journalism because they omit a lot of the crap that the Times works in to their pieces. That and the fact that almost all of their opinion writers are beyond obnoxious. I don’t hope that the Times is ruined by Murdoch but I think their position has been significantly weakened in recent years because of their lack of objectivity.

  • peter nelson

    “I would not buy a Murdoch newpaper if he captured the Delphic Oracle as head of the news department.”

    The Wall Street Journal is one of the finest newspapers in the world and they do an excellent job of keeping their op-ed and news organizations separate. I just skip their op-ed pages entirely.

    But their news organization is second to none. They were doing stories on climate change and the plight and devastation of the uninsured years before the rest of the mainstream press were. A few years ago they won a Pulitzer for a series showing the racism extant in US universities favoring priveleged white students. They broke the Enron story, and won a Pulitzer for it, and they also won a Pulitzer for a series of front page stories they did when their page 1 editor contracted AIDS.

    ANY of these stories would have passed muster and warmed the cockles of any progressives’s heart if any progressives actually read the WSJ (I think I’m one of the very few).

    Since Murdoch took over I’ve seen a slight increase in fluff but it’s usually in the last section or their Weekend section. But its high journalistic standards remain. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

    I think of their op-ed pages the way I think of NPR radio station pledge drives – infuriating but easy to avoid.

  • http://www.lit.org/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    In this panel of greats it would appear that none of them has heard of

    advocacy journalism

    Like it or not, advocacy journalism is quickly becoming the norm in the way America (and the world) gets its news. I wouldn’t be too sure that Murdoch himself is familiar with the term, nor the forces operating behind it. One of the greatest forces is, of course, the Internet. Another is Murdoch, ironically enough.

    Here’s a piece I published on the subject on January 3rd. Enjoy.


    Ah-h, yes. “A force so great it can be used for both good and evil” ~~ Monty Python

  • peter nelson

    Like it or not, advocacy journalism is quickly becoming the norm in the way America (and the world) gets its news.

    Advocacy journalism has been the norm pretty much since the beginning. In European countries few ever questioned it – almost every major newspaper is associated with a political party or political point-of-view and this is how it’s always been.

    Only the Americans in their childlike naivete about how the world works ever entertained the idea of “objectivity” – a concept which makes no sense on the face of it. This isn’t science – interviews don’t have control groups; there are no placebo-controlled crimes or terrorist attacks. Reporters and editors have viewpoints and prejudices, they have cultural programming; they speak in a language that constrains what can be said or even thought. Every narrative has an author and no two authors write the book.

    I’d rather have out-in-the-open advocacy journalism that feigned “objective” journalism any day.

  • Charlotte Williams

    I was very disappointed with the substance of today’s discussion regarding Rupert Murdoch. Not enough emphasis was placed on the danger of monopolization of our media. I agree with the caller who voiced concern about other media avenues chasing Fox News stories. Unfortunately, many people actually believe the information that spews from the Bill O’Reilly’s and the Rush Limbughs. They don’t realize it is entertainment journalism. They form their opinions and made decisions based on Murdoch’s type of journalism. It’s scarey.

  • Todd

    “Unfortunately, many people actually believe the information that spews from the Bill O’Reilly’s and the Rush Limbughs. They don’t realize it is entertainment journalism.”
    Posted by Charlotte Williams

    @ Charlotte Williams:
    I agree. But you fail to mention that the “entertainment journalism” description also extends to stage Left; including the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, etc.

    If it “spews” from ANY mainstream media source, then it’s pure propaganda.

  • peter nelson

    Not enough emphasis was placed on the danger of monopolization of our media.

    As I indicated above, we are in no danger of monopolization. To the contrary, we live in a golden age of journalistic and point-of-view diversity. In the age of the internet it is simply not possible for any news or opinion source to gain a monopoly.

    The only “monopolies” that exist are the ones inside people’s heads – if they choose to limit their exposure to a narrow range of ideas we can’t exactly bust their brains with the Sherman Antitrust Act or something.

  • http://victorials.wordpress.com vinks

    As long as we sell out, we will get bought.

  • Nanette Bulebosh

    I was as concerned about Murdoch’s takeover of WJS as anyone. Whatever else can be said about how the newspaper has or hasn’t changed since he bought it, the one heartening thing is the regular appearance of Thomas Frank’s column. He’s a breath of fresh air surrounded by “free market or bust” groupies. Sometimes I wonder why WSJ allows his subversive perspective to continue. Frank’s most recent column is a case in point.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    As I said in the second paragraph of my piece, Peter Nelson, “

    Advocacy in the press isn’t new; it’s more like the goal posts have been moved.

    I explain that advocacy, slanted or yellow journalism, call it what you like, has ramifications for society. Yet the names we assign to the phenomenon aren’t the point. The point is that journalism has an obligation to the public it serves. All the calls and comments expressing concern over the NYTimes and its “truthiness” were spot on because in journalism it’s understood that mistakes can be made in reporting. The difference between the NYTimes and the Washington Times, for example, lay in the fact that in the NYTimes you will see retractions, corrections, and a promise to put more effort into getting it right the next time.

    Indeed the goal posts are moving … away from us, unfortunately. We’d better start learning how to keep up.


  • Michael

    I thought Ashbrooks’ guests Sherman and Mutter were very informed and articulate about Media Mogul ‘Strine’ (Aussie pronunciation of Australian) Murdoch! He sure puts Wm Randolph Hearst in his place as far as master of an empire is concerned. The fact that the NY Post ran 19 straight days of 9-11 headlines on the cover only to be beaten by 20 days re: the Tiger Woods fiasco says much about how Americans rate stories. No wonder Jim Carreys’ ‘Dumb and Dumber’ has grossed over $300 million globally. Murdoch will probably swallow the NYT as the capstone of his life.

  • Natalie

    Somebody needs to keep the NYT on its toes and challenge their attitude of entitlement and superiority. An Apple to Microsoft.

    Nobody else is investing in old media anyway. I wish him lots of luck.

  • Dave

    Peter wrote: ““News” is a product like anything else – let the market decide what it “should” be about. If there’s a market for serious, in depth, balanced journalism then it will happen.”

    Sure, there are right-leaning people who love to swim in loud right-leaning news coverage, and know they’re doing it. The concern we should all have is for the people who *are* looking for serious, in depth, balanced journalism, and believe that that’s what they’re getting when they listen/watch this stuff.

    A show panelist said that Rupert’s only agenda is success, not spreading conservatism. Sure, his type of spun news and emotional hype sells advertising, but it also influences people’s vote in elections, much more than any other force today.

    My problem is with him personally. He knows of this effect, but making more money is more important to him than using his power responsibly. Perhaps to him, money equals success. How could any man worth his salt take pride in success that has come through fooling the public, playing with people’s emotions, and getting them to affect human lives through votes based on false notions? This is a truly pathetic man.

  • Reggie

    The Times has an agenda, led by the Sulzbergers, especially when it comes to any topic relating to the Middle East especially.

  • Rob L

    I don’t understand the callers that claim the NYTimes represents absolute truth. They were just as wrong, and as loudly wrong, about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as Fox News, or the Economist, or any other of the mainstream media.

    When I watch Fox News I ask how are they trying to mislead me. When I read the New York Times I ask the exact same question.

  • Elaine Decoulos

    The headline I saw earlier today on The Guardian’s website should frighten all of us about the influence of right wing sensationalist media:


    Although Rupert Murdoch is a naturalized US citizen, it concerns me that he was not born here. He does not seem to share many of the values of the traditional US media, as one described above. How and why did he become a US citizen? Does he really care about this country or did he only become American to spin his version of the world via our media? He is also not married to an American born woman. It gives me an uneasy feeling and I think we should all be concerned.

    I am surprised the program did not pick up on my earlier comment referring to what was said in a British Parliamentary Report last week about the ‘industrial scale’ cell phone voicemail bugging at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. What kind of journalistic standards are these? The Report takes many of his executives to task and the paper’s former editor, Andy Coulson, is now working for the Conservative Tory Party as their communications director.

    There are endless stories about this and comment pieces on the Guardian’s website and most make for very disturbing reading. Most Brits believe he has ruined the British press, so we should be very concerned indeed. I, for one, have been libeled in his Sunday Times and never received a correction nor apology. Nor have I received a right of reply to an article in The Times. He and his media outlets have little respect for accuracy and the truth, even his respectable papers, despite employing some very good journalists.

    Here is a very recent example of how some US research was fabricated in The Sunday Times:


    And a few interesting pieces from The Guardian:



    And beware the future of NPR. Rupert Murdoch is now taking on the BBC and many worry that if the Conservatives win the election, they will do as he says with the BBC. The more media he owns, the more influential he becomes. Maybe there should be a law against one company owning several media outlets in different countries.

  • worried for the country

    The NYTimes has been ruined by its leftist agenda creeping into news coverage. Look at today’s paper. Yet another above the fold story on Paterson receiving free Yankee tickets. Geesh!

    I agree that the WSJ is a great paper and they do a good job separating news and opinion.

    I hope the competition will wake the NYT up and they can restore their once great status. However, I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • worried for the country


    When you brought up ‘bias and hatred’ were you referring to Frank Rich, Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd?

  • Cynthia Black

    I would not buy a Murdoch newpaper if he captured the Delphic Oracle as head of the news department.

    Posted by Maureen McDonald, on March 3rd, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Couldn’t agree more!!!

  • joshua

    this idiot should be incarcerated along with his merry men of viscious destructive propaganda

  • joshua

    ruperts vision–racism, slavery, war, fascism, death squads..

  • joshua

    thi bag of bones need to retire in old folks home–i cant stand looking at his face

  • Michael

    NPR is actually a(since 2008) a Limited Liability Corporation consisting of it’s foundation(non profit) and National Public Media holding a 80/20 stake (NPM) (for profit)it also distanced itself from local and individual donation in favor of Corporate ones, as the 20% stake is undisclosed

    This is from there 2008 Financial Statements, page 7


    Take this information with the constant shift right,balance somehow is Far right and center.

    Now almost every day Tom, or NPR are quoting People such as Rush, Fox News, Glen B, Sean H. As well as much more commercials than before, think i heard advertisement for Glee more on NPR than on Foxs,We heard Sean and Rush word against scientist on global warming., Not to mention almost daily now National Review(tied to fox news) Op Ed on NPR website. Or look at when the new IPhone came out NPR converted almost a hour lest on one show saying how great is would be

    Here is NPR donors list for 08, another com mentor always makes this reference “follow the money”

    Yes Fox Broadcasting company 50-99k is on there as well as fox search light pictures, both majority own by Murdoch 1Million plus, as well as 20th century fox 100-249k, as well as some investment houses and banks

  • Michael


    Mathes recently worked with Vivian Schiller to co-host a meeting with a major WAMU donor at NPR’s downtown headquarters. They met for a lunch of wrap sandwiches and salad in Schiller’s office and then Ellen Weiss, the head of news, took the donor on a tour of NPR, being careful to point out production teams that were covering issues the donor cared about. “This person has a lot of personal savvy about the media and wanted to see the sausage getting made,” said Mathes. “I came away from that experience thinking that it should have always been like this.”

    If Schiller gets her way, perhaps now it will be. 


  • http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/03/the-last-great-newspaper-war Tony Longo

    Does he already own the NPR stations and their news editors?

    Is this like Howard Hughes all over again? Yes it is… only this time theUSA is the only country that is kept in the dark while the rest of the world watches and waits to see the next move of the Republicans and their New World Order…

    So Tom… are you a Skull? Are you apart of the new world order?

  • Michael

    The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News

    Norm C. refutes this, and destroys this argument

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