Books

Rupert Murdoch biography review

Rupert Murdoch may be the ultimate global tycoon villain (so villainous that he was the bad guy in a James Bond film*), with his worldwide media empire, his supposed cold, brutish manner, and frighteningly, insatiable thirst to increase his media possessions even more. In the US, where his Fox News has carved up a sizable and notorious niche for amazingly popular right-wing demagoguery, his reputation is even more villainous such as when he pursued the Wall Street Journal and eventually got it. But he’s also a confused, reserved, bumbling and technology-illiterate old man, who was even “strikingly little idea about” Dow Jones (the WSJ’s parent company), as writer Michael Wolff says in The Man Who Owns The News-Inside The Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, a semi-authorized biography of the man and his successful purchase of the WSJ. But rather than make Murdoch seem like a joke or a fraud, this revelation of his flaws actually highlights how impressive his ascent has been and comlicates people’s feelings about him- that one who in some ways is so unimpressive is also so complex and successful.

Murdoch’s rise from an Australian newspaper heir maneuvered out of his newspaper inheritance after his father dies to his ownership of a multimedia empire spanning most of the major English-speaking world is charted, as well as his intriguing family dynamics, most notably his succession which has been complicated by his most recent marriage and resultant 2 little daughters. The key to his success is his determination to push forward and take risks, and the nerve to fight battles and not back down. The list of his opponents include British publishing unions, the Big 3 US networks of ABC, CBS and NBC, fellow media magnates such as Ted Turner and Richard Branson and even entire countries (though it must be said he did give in to China). The book has lots of interesting little anecdotes such as how Murdoch has met every US President since Harry Truman and that he doesn’t (and possible can’t) use email. In the end, the writer touches on Murdoch’s fight against the Internet, specifically his well-known desire to defeat the concept of reading news online for free and get people to start paying for newspaper website access with his setting up of paywalls on his Times website. The book makes a strong case for how much Murdoch feels for newspapers and journalism, he’s definitely not in it for the money, and that instead of a devourer, he is possibly the only and last savior of the news print industry.

*not exactly, but I think you get the point

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