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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

End of an era

In the end, it came down to money. It always does.

And with that, one of the best newspapers in the world is now in the hands of the world's last remaining newspaper mogul, for all the good, and mostly ill, that goes with it.

Rupert Murdoch will not turn the Wall Street Journal into a downmarket tabloid with pictures (or woodcuts ) of topless women on Page 3. It's entirely possible that the editorial page will actually shift a little to the left since not even Rupe the Rude is that bonkers.

Actually, it's more about business than ideology. And Rupe places business first, as has been chronicled over and over again.

The Fox News Channel, in all its Bush-backing, left-bashing propagandizing glory, is a business decision. Murdoch wanted a cable presence and needed something to differentiate it from the recognized leader in journalism, CNN.

So the business model became an ideological one, that CNN was a card-carrying member of the liberal media, the right's greatest canard. Murdoch's business plan worked because he came up with a catchy (if fake) slogan of "We Report, You Decide," which appealed to what was correctly perceived as an unserved market.

He then installed a TV executive with a history of right-wing hatchet work for Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, proclaimed his lack of bias, attacked the competition and won over that true-believer audience.

I've always suspected there are two markets for the Journal -- businesspeople who read it cover to cover and the rest of us, who skip over the last two pages of the front section. While Rupe is a cover-to-cover guy, he will not alienate those of us who pay good money for the dead tree edition or for the only successful paid online model.

Where the real disdain should now be aimed is the Bancroft family -- which squandered a great heritage and a great franchise by ignoring the operation of this journalistic treasure and then sold it down the river for a few pieces of silver.

And the episode should serve as a sharp warning to the Sulzberger family and its stewardship of some great (and once-great) newspapers.

The New York Times has made a hash of its business in recent years -- with Exhibit A being The Boston Globe. It's starving the Globe of resources is a journalistic shame -- while not on a par with the Journal falling into Murdoch's hands -- that will blot the Sulzberger legacy.

The barbarians are at the door Pinch. You are next. It's time to get your house in order. You can start by cutting the Globe loose to a responsible, local owner.

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