“There might be other buyers more palatable to them. But who’s to say Rupert Murdoch is all that bad?”
Brian Rogers of T. Rowe Price, advising the Bancrofts to sell The Wall Street Journal.
The answer to this question depends on what you mean by bad—or good—and on who is a credible witness. Robert Thomson, editor of The Times of London, testifies for good. He says Rupert Murdoch’s control of The Times doesn’t distort its reporting, which is admirable if true. But Mr. Thomson is a Murdoch employee, and there’s some evidence that he is talking through his hat.
For Mr. Rogers, making money is generally “good,” but there are particulars in News Corp. that might trouble him. For instance, making money at newspapers like The Wall Street Journal is something Murdoch has been notably bad at. (The Times is a prime example.) We must estimate, since News Corp. doesn’t publish results for its individual titles. (There are about 175 of them, the best-known being the New York Post, in America; The Times, the Sunday Times, The Sun, and the News of the World, in Britain: The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and The Mercury, in Australia). Media companies are often secretive, and News Corp. outstandingly so. If due diligence meant as much as Wall Street pretends it does, the Bancroft advisers would require disclosure before talking business.
Revenue aside, whether a journalism outlet is bad or good comes down to net effect. We know every police force contains villains, but if it catches more than it employs, society profits. We also know that every media group does some good. The Murdoch operation exposes numberless sexual peccadilloes, and much lesser crime—but not dud military campaigns or Enronesque frauds. There’s a good case...
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