Sunday, December 02, 2012

Respectable Fish

"No respectable fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch newspaper."
-- Mike Royko
Mike Royko, who quit his job at the Chicago Sun-Times and took his column across the street to the "enemy" Chicago Tribune one day after Rupert Murdoch took over the Sun-Times.

That was in 1983.

The great Roger Ebert recounts what happened next:

... Mike Royko called Rupert Murdoch The Alien. He landed on the Chicago Sun-Times like a bug-eyed monster from outer space and extruded poisonous slime. I was an eyewitness.

Under the leadership of publisher James Hoge, the paper had won six Pulitzers and should have won another one (for the ingenious idea of opening a bar named the Mirage and baiting it to attract the flies of Chicago corruption). Hoge had just overseen a redesign of the paper that made it then (and in my opinion still) the most elegant tabloid I had ever seen.

The Sun-Times was poised on the edge of something great. The Chicago Tribune remained tethered to its hidebound past. Morale was high.

After the closing of the Chicago Daily News in 1978, Royko, the greatest Chicago columnist, had taken up residence in a corner office of the Sun-Times where he wrote his superlative daily column and smoked all the Pall Malls he wanted to. This golden age lasted until 1983. The paper was owned by Marshall Field V and his brother Ted Field. Ted wanted to cash in. Marshall couldn't or didn't choose to buy him out. Murdoch was known to be a bidder. Royko was involved in negotiations with a group of local investors assembled by Jim Hoge to buy the paper. Marshall Field, who owned half the paper, said he was willing to sell to that group, but Murdoch offered $10 million more than Hoge could raise, and Marshall's brother, the movie producer Ted Field, insisted they take it.

While Royko eventually snuck out to that great barbecue and softball stein-hoist in the sky in 1997, Murdoch continues to infest the planet with his multimedia fascism and his loyal army of

goons and well-poisoners.

And now?

From the redoubtable Charles P. Pierce:
I am not comforted by the outburst of genuine Third Wave banality slung around there by chairman Genachowski, especially when I realized that Murdoch is just a short step off stage, salivating at the prospect of gnawing what meat is left off the bones of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, two once-great newspapers currently dead in the fields because that same golden new age of wealth creation resulted in almost three decades in which American newspapers came to be owned by avaricious, bean-counting morons. Murdoch wants both papers, and the only thing keeping this horror at bay are those "outdated prohibitions" that prevent him from owning newspapers and radio and television stations in the same market. Media writer Craig Aaron has been all over this.

There is simply no reason for any country anywhere in the world ever to do favors for Rupert Murdoch ever again. His British operation has been exposed engaging in outright criminality. (And anyone who thinks that criminality stopped in the UK is fooling themselves.) His television network in the United States has turned to outright buffoonery and is starting to stagger in the ratings. He is the Bhopal in any media ecosystem in which he is allowed to flourish. There never has been a better time to break what power he has left.

Instead, it appears that we are going to streamline ourselves right into enhancing his power in minor markets like Chicago and Los Angeles. It appears to me that this ought to be of some concern to an administration on which Mr. Murdoch has painted a bulls-eye since January of 2009. Vengeance is not always a bad thing.

Were he alive today, I wonder what Royko's escape route from the clutches of Voldemurd

 would look like this time?


blackdaug said...

Remember some time in the dim past, when there was a legal cap on the percentage of media a single entity could own in this country? It was something like..30%, then Rupert decided he wanted the WSJ and a few other trinkets,but it would push News Corpse holdings up to say 36%.
Suddenly appeared a law that would magically push that cap up to 36%..
I think that happened during the Shrub honeymoon (right after 9/11 with repubs controlling 2 out of 3 levers)
Anyway, how is he allowed to expand in any american market at all anymore?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Poor fish.

ScarabusRedivivus said...

Blackdaug (a respected online friend from elsewhere in blogosphere?)—

Have to look up the fair-play, diversity, public interest laws/rules long since flushed. Whatever…

Don't know about percentages, but my recollection is that the principle involved making sure that the public had local access to a diversity of information and perspective.

Setting percentages would have been a way of ensuring that the principle was respected — in other words, the principle was strategic, while the percentages were tactical.

A lot has changed, but at least one thing hasn't: To allow one person/corporation to monopolize the major media (newspapers, radio, and TV) in one city or area helps Gordon Gecko, but it hurts the rest of us, individually.

And it hurts our democracy even more. One of my email signatures is the familiar aphorism: "The problem ain't what you don't know. The problem is what you do know that just ain't so." That's a perfect characterization of habitual Fox viewers. Fox News is total propaganda, ranging from blatant to half-disguised. Everyone who hasn't been zombified by Roger Aisles knows that. But!

Imagine that areas like Chicago, LA, and elsewhere got all their news and all their opinion from Fox. Only now it wouldn't be blatant and in your face; it would insinuate itself in the guise of legitimate journalism. No one to challenge. No one to print or broadcast challenge and a different viewpoint.

And Genachowski plans to force this through in a meeting that's not just closed, but secret. Driftglass is a native of Chicago. As Spooner might have said, he's a "fart smeller." And he knows Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle. Are we gonna walk docilely through the chutes to what awaits us in the abattoir?

We really must not accept this without at least screaming, kicking, and acting. The immediate need is to contact the FCC. Do it here:

Fritz Strand said...

I guess I have to conclude that our MSM is completely terrified by Murdoch. They act like sheep who are devoured one by one by a predator. Murdoch did major damage to British journalism and culture our media continues to give him a pass.

Check out this Guardian (who blow the whistle on him) article:

bluepillnation said...

Take some heart from the fact that it took the threat of a similarly significant overreach in the UK on the part of the Murdoch Empire to bring the phone-hacking scandal front and centre.

Allow me to explain - the first Nick Davies article in the Grauniad related to phone-hacking appeared in July 2009 here:

The Grauniad : Murdoch papers paid 1m to gag phone-hacking victims

This was two months before Murdoch's papers switched their support to Cameron's Tories (a foregone conclusion), six months before the election and the news was noted in some quarters, but no significant fuss was made (outside of the UK liberal-left blogosphere, natch ;).

Fast-forward to the election and what happens for the first time since the Beelzebub-brokered deal between Thatcher and Murdoch more than three decades ago is that the latter's anointed party and PM does not manage to achieve an overall majority even with NI's backing and they are forced into coalition with the more centrist Liberal Democrats.

Murdoch's aim is to bring BSkyB, the holding company for the largest UK satellite broadcaster, under the control of NI (which would give NI control of a significant percentage of the UK TV market in one fell swoop), but competition rules require approval before that can happen. The man originally tasked with heading that process was Vince Cable - a LibDem pragmatist who was no particular friend of Murdoch, but has a reputation for speaking his mind. He duly speaks his mind, saying that some of NI's activities are concerning and is promptly pilloried for it in every Murdoch rag as well as Sky News.

The result of this was that Cable was replaced in April 2011 by one Jeremy Hunt - a dyed-in-the-wool Thatcherite Tory who never met an oligarch he didn't like, who duly green-lighted the takeover bid at the end of the following June.

In what would initially seem an unrelated story, sexual sadist and murderer Levi Bellfield was convicted of the rape, torture and murder of schoolgirl Amanda "Milly" Dowler at the end of that same June.

On the 5th of July 2011 the Guardian published a facet of the story it had been building since 2003 that had never been revealed before - namely that staff from the Murdoch Sunday tabloid "News Of The World" had "hacked" Milly Dowler's voicemail account in the hours and days after her disappearance, and it was alleged at the time that this unauthorised access may well have given the police false hope that she was still alive. Such actions were so obviously beyond the pale that the rest of the UK media picked up the story and turned it into the scandal it always should have been.

Whether this timing was serendipity or otherwise, the fact remains that Murdoch can be beaten because his operations have been acting so brazenly for so long that there has to be a similarly awful story bubbling under the surface in the US.