Ed Driscoll

Obscure Niche Market Publisher Seeking to Transfer Family Business to Sons

With Fox News, Rupert Murdoch created a product that filled a niche — half the country, as the old line invariably attributed to Charles Krauthammer goes. At NewsBusters, Jeffrey Lord writes that Murdoch is “The Man Who Broke the Iron Grip of Liberal Media in America:”

My favorite Rupert Murdoch story? It goes like this.

Murdoch buys the London newspaper The Sun. He wanted to make it a tabloid, which his printers told him was not possible. Why? The presses he owned printed a broadsheet, or, in layman’s language, a large newspaper format like those in the United States of The New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal. The presses were not formatted to print a tabloid. Murdoch biographer William Shawcross tells the rest of the story this way:

“He (Murdoch) informed the printers that their presses had originally been supplied with bars which would fold the pages to tabloid size. The head printer denied it. So Murdoch took off his jacket and climbed onto a press. In a box at the top of the machine he found the bar in question wrapped in sacking and covered in ink and grime. The printers were impressed.”

Murdoch got his tabloid.

This week brought the news that Rupert Murdoch was handing over the day-to-day operation of his vast, self-built (yes, he really did build it) media empire. The New York Times headlined it this way:

Rupert Murdoch to Put Media Empire in Sons’ Hands

After linking to “this January 1977 Time magazine cover that depicts Murdoch as King Kong astride the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center, clutching New York publications he then owned, then and now including the New York Post,” with the headline, “EXTRA!!! Aussie Press Lord Terrifies Gotham” — at least its leftwing journalists, such as those who work at Time, Lord writes:

Will the Murdoch brothers succeed? Can they use the 21st century to position the Murdoch empire for the 22nd?  Time will tell. But, of course, that isn’t the point.

The point is that while the announcement of just how Rupert Murdoch intends to hand off his empire and send it into the future is important, this is a moment to celebrate a larger than life original. A man who took his vision and his dreams and made them real. To the great benefit of his native Australia and his adopted America, not to mention all those gainfully employed thousands in Murdoch ventures across the globe.

And, in the case of Fox News? To the teeth-gritting annoyance of liberals everywhere.

I hope that Murdoch’s sons succeed beyond their wildest dreams, but only if they can continue to steer the journalism empire their father built on a path somewhere to the right. But the postwar stories of the New York Times and the aforementioned Time magazine does not inspire confidence. “Punch” Sulzberger was a relatively sane centrist liberal, perhaps because as a young man he served with the Marines in World War II and the Korean War. According to the New Yorker, with the Vietnam War still raging in the early 1970s, Punch asked his son, “If a young American soldier comes upon a young North Vietnamese soldier, which one do you want to see get shot?” “Pinch” Sulzberger, the man who now shapes the collective worldview of one of America’s largest newspapers replied, “I would want to see the American get shot. It’s the other guy’s country; we shouldn’t be there.”

Time magazine was founded in the 1920s by center-right Henry Luce, the son of Jesuit missionaries to pre-communist China. During World War II, he declared that the 20th century would be the American Century, just as the previous century had been relatively benignly dominated by England. That confidence in American ideals would eventually be utterly discarded by his successors. In the twilight of his life, as Luce began to cede day-to-day control over his empire, Time magazine shocked its readers by running a cover story that paraphrased Nietzsche’s infamous God (and ultimate Europe) destroying aphorism of the previous century by asking, “Is God Dead?” Less than three years after Luce himself was dead, the magazine’s cossetted and monolithically left-leaning writers admitted they had no understanding of the core center-right audience that Luce had devoted his entire life to courting.

As the old saying goes, “From shirtsleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.” In addition to looking at how badly the Gray Lady, Time, and more recently CNN and NBC have gone off the deep end, I hope Murdoch’s sons — and beyond them, whoever is designated to be the successor to Fox News titan Roger Ailes — keep that in mind.