Murdoch and that Lying Thing

Will be a problem for the Journal

He said that he admired the Dow Jones chief executive, Richard F. Zannino, and the newly appointed top editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, and would leave them in place. He said that he did not plan on bringing any News Corporation editors to the paper, but that he did plan to call on Robert Thomson, the editor of his Times of London and the former editor of the United States edition of The Financial Times, for advice. (1)

“He” is Rupert Murdoch. Yesterday, well, Zannino was forced out and two News Corp. executives were brought in. Brauchli stays!

News Corp. Duo Set To Lead Dow Jones As Zannino Resigns

So, one out of three.

Hey, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this. We’re all grownups here at The Audit, you know, savvy to the ways of high finance, etc. We know that in the real world, the world of fast-moving events, tough decisions of capital allocation, the world of stocks and bonds, calls and puts, a man of business can’t always, um, divulge, shall we say, future intentions, which, of course, can change day-to-day, especially regarding senior-executive-level personnel, which, as many of you know, is a highly sensitive subject that implicates numerous issues of law and strategy. Plus, things in the hurly-burly world of mergers-and-acquisitions—that “high-octane” world, as calls it—move so fast.

‘Theengs chaynge, ya ‘now, Pahdray?

And, yes, Murdoch’s style of, um, lying has probably made his shareholders a lot of money over the years. I don’t know anything about big media companies. And, News Corp. certainly looks like a bit of a rat’s nest.
Still, I don’t think you need to be a Boy Scout to own The Simpsons, American Idol or ReganBooks.

But call me old-fashioned, humorless, a relic living in an Ivory Tower, but news organizations really should avoid becoming founts of complete and utter b.s.

Newspapers are in the business of finding and telling the truth, remember?

And, see, newspaper readers are pretty stupid, we all know that. But even they will sense some disconnect when they see the newspaper holding leaders to account, matching what they say today against what they said in the past, sorting through spin and attempts to misrepresent the record—doing what newspapers do all day, every day—and the news organization misrepresenting the record, avoiding accountability for what it said in the past, doing the opposite of what it said it would do.

So, what I’m saying here is that l-y-i-n-g and j-o-u-r-n-a-l-i-s-m don’t go well together.

Eets jes ‘ah beyhd combo, mate—like spreading vegemite on a goddamn kangaroo.

Don Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Co., recently gave a report to shareholders in which he summarized the company’s various operations this way: “We believe they can be successful businesses and can also do a lot of good in the world.”

Yes, people still talk like that.

The Journal’s credibility and reputation—its ability to do “good in the world”—will now and forever be inextricably tied to that of News Corp.

For readers, that’s a grim prospect.

1. New York Times, May 4, 2007

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.