A look back at what is constant in a press baron's character
I hadn't looked for a long time at my 2003 story for the magazine, "The Age of Murdoch." I've just looked at it again now, on the assumption that Murdoch news will be with us for a while.
Some the story involves choices and controversies no longer relevant. Also, at that time Fox News had not fully evolved into its current political role. But a lot of what I learned about Murdoch himself seemed connected to what we've recently seen. A few examples:
Life on the edge:
>>[A] constant in his career is its embattled, roller-coaster quality. [Rupert] Murdoch is said to be popular and admired within his own organization, rather than resented, mocked, or gossiped about behind his back. But with business rivals he is always in feuds and showdowns, and not only high-profile ones like that with [Ted] Turner. He has taken big risks (one associate describes Murdoch's making, in a matter of minutes, the billion-dollar decision to back Fox News "the way you or I might order lunch"), and his business has suffered serious reverses. In 1990, in an episode vividly described by [William] Shawcross, Murdoch was nearly forced to liquidate News Corp after a bank in Pittsburgh refused to roll over a small but crucial portion of his corporate debt. Although admirers compare him to Bill Gates or John D. Rockefeller because of his appreciation of technology and his instinct for strategic advantage, Murdoch is perhaps best compared to Bill Clinton: his nature keeps getting him into predicaments from which his talent lets him escape.<<
The media/politics combine:
>>Political involvement has been one more constant in his career. The simple view of Murdoch, especially among liberals who fear him, is that he is a dangerously obsessed conservative propagandist--Richard Mellon Scaife with a job. This is imprecise...
His associates report that he has never met George W. Bush, hard as it may be to believe. He has, though, developed a respectful relationship with Bill Clinton. Each has lunched at the other's office in New York, and Murdoch came away impressed by Clinton's ability to discuss impromptu almost any issue arising almost anywhere on earth. Associates of both say that despite the political differences between the men, they clicked because of complementary personalities: Murdoch loves to listen, and Clinton loves to talk....
The real difference between Murdoch and an activist like Scaife is that Murdoch seems to be most interested in the political connections that will help his business....<<
After the jump, the management culture of News Corp.