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Archive for July 22nd, 2011

Early Morning Swim

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:48 am by HL

Early Morning Swim

 

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The Limits of Compromise

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:47 am by HL

The Limits of Compromise
There are basically two ways to reduce the debt as a percentage of GDP: Cut government spending or make the economy grow. The problem is that doing more of one means doing less of the other. By Eugene Robinson

There are basically two ways to reduce the debt as a percentage of GDP: Cut government spending or make the economy grow. The problem is that doing more of one means doing less of the other.


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Defense Secretary To Certify DADT Repeal

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:46 am by HL

Defense Secretary To Certify DADT Repeal
WASHINGTON — Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services and certify that repealing the…

David Gray: The Need for More Men to Be Interested in Child Care Policy
Dual-generational, quality child care is an important issue that needs renewed emphasis in America. It can make a real difference in both the educational outcomes of children and the employment outcomes for adults.

Steve Sheffey: The Most Anti-Israel President Ever?
We’re going to hear again and again from Republicans about how President Obama is supposedly not strong on Israel. But President Obama has provided more security assistance to Israel than any president in history.

Justice Department Prepares Subpoenas In News Corp. Inquiry
The U.S. Justice Department is preparing subpoenas as part of preliminary investigations into News Corp. relating to alleged foreign bribery and alleged hacking of voicemail…


In The Dark? Murdoch’s History Shows He’s “A Hands-On” Owner

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:45 am by HL

In The Dark? Murdoch’s History Shows He’s “A Hands-On” Owner

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has denied knowing about alleged misconduct by employees. But senior staff who worked for Murdoch have said that he’s been a “hands-on” owner who has been closely involved with his media properties.

Murdoch Has Denied Knowledge Of Misconduct At His Tabloid

Murdoch Says He Was Unaware Of Hackings And Police Payments. From Bloomberg’s write-up of Murdoch’s July 19 testimony to the U.K. parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee:

Chairman Rupert Murdoch denied any knowledge of phone-hacking and payments to police at his News of the World tabloid, blaming “people I trusted” during three hours of questioning by British lawmakers that was interrupted by a protester attacking him with a foam pie.

“They betrayed the company, and me, and they deserve to pay, and I think that frankly I’m the best person to clean this up,” the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch, flanked by his son James, said at a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing in London.

Both Murdochs said they didn’t know about employees intercepting voice mails or paying police for stories at the Sunday tabloid, the 168-year-old newspaper they closed on July 10 following a public outcry and political backlash. Allegations that murder and terror victims had their phones hacked also prompted the company to drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.5 billion) bid for all of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. [Bloomberg, 7/19/11]

Murdoch “Is A Hands-On” Media Titan

Murdoch: “To Say That We’re Hands-Off Is Wrong.” During his July 19 testimony to Parliament, in which he denied knowledge of the alleged misconduct, Murdoch said he keeps in touch with his properties:

QUESTIONER: Could you just give us an illustration of how many times, how often you would speak to the editor of your newspapers. How often you’d speak to the editor of the Sun, for example. How often you’d speak to the editor of the News of the World?

MURDOCH: Very seldom. Sometimes I would ring the editor of the News of the World on a Saturday night and say, ‘You’ve got any news tonight?’ But it was just to keep in touch. I ring the editor of the Sunday Times nearly every Saturday. Not to influence what he has to say at all, I’m very careful in order to premise any remark I made to him saying, ‘I’m just inquiring.’ And I’m not really in touch. I’ve got to tell you that I’ve spent – if there’s an editor that I spend most time with, it’s with the editor of the Wall Street Journal. And – because I’m in the same building. But to say that we’re hands-off is wrong. I work a ten or twelve hour day and I can’t tell you the multitude of issues that I have to handle every day. News of the World, perhaps, I’ve lost sight of maybe because it was so small in the general frame of our company, but we’re doing a lot of other things to –

QUESTIONER: I understand that, but if I could help you out here. If somebody had told me that you would speak to something like the editor of the Sun at least daily or maybe twice a day, would you recognize that description or would that be –

MURDOCH: No.

QUESTIONER: You wouldn’t, you wouldn’t historically, traditionally, have spoken to the editor of the Sun that number of times?

MURDOCH: No. I’d like to, but no. [Murdoch parliamentary hearing testimony, 7/19/11]  

New York’s Sherman: Idea That Murdoch “Was Completely In The Dark … Is Contradicted By His Long History.” New York editor Gabriel Sherman wrote in a post about Murdoch:

So far, there has been no evidence to directly tie the scandal to Rupert, and he’s attempted to contain it by accepting the resignation of News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and his longtime executive Les Hinton.

Undoubtedly, he will tell the House of Commons that he had no knowledge of the illegal hacking and bribery that was apparently rampant at the News of the World until 2006. As the head of a $40 billion global media conglomerate, Rupert will attempt to cast himself as too busy to have been aware of the journalistic crimes being committed in “a British corner” of his global empire (as a Wall Street Journal editorial that could have been written by Rupert himself put it today).

And yet, much of the Murdoch mythology is based on a far different picture: Rupert is the inveterate newspaperman who derives primal satisfaction from being intimately familiar with his newsrooms and the editors who run them. This was the portrait I saw when I profiled Rupert for New York in February 2010. At the time, he was ramping up to take on the New York Times by launching The Wall Street Journal‘s metro section. A parade of sources reflected on Rupert’s love of newspapers and his involvement with them. “Until very recently he was seeing The Sun before it went to press every day,” one person close to Rupert told me then.

The idea that Rupert was completely in the dark about what was going on at the News of the World is contradicted by his long history of talking regularly with his editors, phoning in gossip, and strutting through his newsrooms. “He’s always been in love with newspapers,” former Sunday Times editor Harry Evans told me in 2010. Evans was forced out by Rupert in 1981 when he gained control of the Times of London. “He’s always had an affinity and understanding of what they are.”

This image is confirmed by Ken Auletta’s recent New Yorker profile of Journal editor Robert Thomson. In the article, Auletta reports that Thomson was Murdoch’s “best friend.” One senior Wall Street Journal staffer told me that Rupert would appear at the paper’s morning editorial meeting and sit quietly in the back. “I think people are so accustomed to it that it’s not so remarkable of a thing,” this source told me.

In many ways, Rupert has maintained a reporter’s instinct and uses newspapers to advance his agenda. In Vanity Fair in 2008, Michael Wolff observed Rupert working the phones trying to report on gossip about an aide to Hillary Clinton. Rupert had overheard a rumor at a dinner party that the aide was a partner in an online porn site. “Here was the old man, in white shirt, singlet visible underneath, doing one of the same basic jobs he’d been doing since he was 22, having inherited the Adelaide News in Australia from his father. And he was good at it. He was parsing each answer. Re-asking the question. Clarifying every point. His notepad going. He knew the trade. Of how many media-company C.E.O.’s could that be said? This wasn’t a destroyer of journalism — this was a practitioner.”

Rupert is not a detached executive. In his newsrooms, the culture is set from the top. After the Journal‘s senior editorial writer Joseph Rago won the Pulitzer Prize this year — the first Pulitzer for the Murdoch-owned Journal — Rupert met with Rago to congratulate him. In the meeting Rupert also lectured Rago on “how much he hated the Pulitzer and how useless they are,” a source familiar with the exchange said. Rago told me Rupert “was very complimentary and very gracious just like everyone else at News Corp.” A Journal spokesperson followed up by e-mail to say it was “100 percent absolutely untrue” that Murdoch was uncomplimentary to Rago about his Pulitzer. [NYMag.com, Gabriel Sherman, 7/18/11]

WSJ: Examination Shows Murdoch Has Blurred The Line “Between Business And News Sides” And Has Been “Unusually Aggressive” With His Properties. Prior to Murdoch’s takeover of the paper, the Wall Street Journal published an extensive examination of his history – and interference – with his media properties. The article concluded that Murdoch “has blurred a line that exists at many other U.S. media companies between business and news sides — a line intended to keep the business and political interests of owners from influencing the presentation of news”: 

A detailed examination of Mr. Murdoch’s half-century career as a journalist and businessman shows that his newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interests of his sprawling media conglomerate, News Corp. In the process, Mr. Murdoch has blurred a line that exists at many other U.S. media companies between business and news sides — a line intended to keep the business and political interests of owners from influencing the presentation of news.

Mr. Murdoch’s focus on News Corp.’s bottom line has often allowed market considerations to influence editorial moves, and different markets have led to starkly different approaches. In the U.S., Fox News has thrived by tilting to the right, filling a niche left open by its network and cable rivals. In Italy, a 24-hour television news channel launched by Mr. Murdoch in 2003 has positioned itself as a relatively reliable and objective source of news — in contrast to the political bias of Italy’s more-established channels.

At all newspapers, owners have a say in broad editorial direction. Mr. Murdoch has a long history of being unusually aggressive, reflecting his roots as an old-fashioned press baron. From his earliest days, like some other newspaper proprietors of the last century, he ran his companies with his hands directly on the daily product, peppering reporters and editors with suggestions and criticisms.

[…]

Over the years, Mr. Murdoch and his lieutenants have raised hackles for their involvement in the company’s news operations. Former top editors at two of his London papers, for example, say he ignored an independent board set up to protect them from his interference, and got involved directly in firings in the 1980s. In Australia, the former editor of one of his top papers complains that a News Corp. executive pushed him for critical coverage of pilots in a strike that was hurting a News Corp. airline investment. In China, former employees say Mr. Murdoch’s representatives occasionally pushed reporters to do more upbeat stories, at a time when News Corp. was seeking government help to expand its reach there. The reporters there didn’t listen and kept up their often critical coverage. [Wall Street Journal, 6/5/07]

Reuters: “Former Senior Murdoch Employees In Britain, Australia And The United States Say Murdoch Is A Hands-On Media Proprietor.” Reuters reporters Mark Hosenball and Kate Holton examined Murdoch’s career and found that former senior employees “say Murdoch is a hands-on media proprietor, as ready with an opinion on a story as he is to dispose of any editor who regularly takes a different stance from his own”:

Once assembled, Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor who ran Murdoch’s raucous daily tabloid the Sun between 1981 and 1994 and made it the most influential newspaper for much of the Thatcher era, would ask: “Right. Who’s going to ring Rupert, then?”

The anecdote was delivered with a smile. But senior journalists and corporate officials who have worked at the highest levels of the Murdoch organization in Britain say it encapsulates a deep truth about the way the Murdoch newspaper empire has traditionally been run.

Former senior Murdoch employees in Britain, Australia and the United States say Murdoch is a hands-on media proprietor, as ready with an opinion on a story as he is to dispose of any editor who regularly takes a different stance from his own.

Reports of Murdoch pressuring editors until their newspapers reflected his own political leanings are common — if more frequent at his tabloids than at his quality publications. Sometimes, Murdoch does not even have to pick up the phone.

“When I was last at News I was astonished how some editors would almost factor in Rupert even though he was 12,000 miles away,” Bruce Guthrie, a former editor at Murdoch’s Herald Sun in Melbourne, told Reuters.

“You could almost see them thinking, ‘what will Rupert think of this?'” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Murdoch Biographer Wolff: “If You Work For Rupert, You Do His Bidding.” From Michael Wolff’s The Man Who Owns The News:

The hatred of Murdoch by the great population of journalists who don’t work for him is stoked by many things, but underlying all these things – and forming the real, gut-level antipathy for him in the newsroom at the Wall Street Journal, a sense of the end of the world – is the structural difference that he actually runs his newsrooms. If you work for Rupert, you do his bidding. You submit to Rupert. He gets his newspapers wherever he is in the world, gets out his red pen – just like his father before him – and puts a cross through stories that shouldn’t have run, circles a photo and draws an arrow to show where it should have been placed, notes a headline that should have been two lines rather than one, and so on.

He denies that he interferes – sort of (he doesn’t actually want people to think he’s not involved). The people around him, his executives and his editors, defending their own bona fides, deny this categorically. This – such denials about interference – is artifice that Murdoch and his people believe everybody is practicing. They actually don’t accept that a hands-off structure truly exists anywhere. And if it does exist, then something has gone radically amiss – and you’ve a fool for an owner.

From his view – and understand that, except for his brief internship with Beaverbrook, he has only ever worked for himself; he has no idea, really, how other journalistic organizations function – it would be absurd and irresponsible for him not to run his papers. [Michael Wolff, The Man Who Owns The News, Pages 225-226]

Murdoch Hands-On With UK Properties

Reuters: Former Insiders Say Murdoch “Sought To Steer” Sunday Times. Reuters reported that Murdoch “would routinely ring” Sunday Times editors and “grill them about the stories being worked on.”:

To get an idea of how deeply Murdoch sometimes sought to steer what his newspapers were saying, former Wapping insiders point to his relationship with one of the more respected of his British media properties, the Sunday Times.

Toward the end of a typical week, says a former senior News International figure, the owner would routinely ring the paper’s editor — from the mid-1980s a voluble Scotsman named Andrew Neil but more recently John Witherow, a genial, low-profile South African — and grill them about the stories being worked on.

One person who was present at one of these sessions said Murdoch would ask his editor to run through the list of stories reporters were chasing. He would then critique them one by one.

Eventually Murdoch would hear a story he liked and make his interest apparent. That story would then become a main candidate for the front page. [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Times Editor Giles: Murdoch Ordered Sunday Times Firing – An Apparent Violation Of Murdoch’s Independence Promise. The Wall Street Journal reported of former Sunday Times editor Frank Giles and Murdoch:

Frank Giles, who edited the Sunday Times from 1981 to 1983, says the board “had very little power or will to protect the independence of the papers they were appointed to safeguard.”

In his autobiography, “Sundry Times,” Mr. Giles wrote that Mr. Murdoch ordered him in January 1982 to replace the paper’s magazine editor with an editor from the News of the World, an apparent violation of his promise not to dictate staffing changes. Mr. Giles says he reluctantly made the moves, pretending to the paper’s staff they were his idea. He says he didn’t appeal to the independent directors because he believed it wouldn’t have helped. Mr. Murdoch denies he ordered the change, saying, “Frank’s gone nuts.”

Fred Emery, a former Times assistant editor, says Mr. Murdoch called him into his office in March 1982 and said he was considering firing Times editor Harold Evans. Mr. Emery says he reminded Mr. Murdoch of his promise that editors couldn’t be fired without the independent directors’ approval.

“God, you don’t take all that seriously, do you?” Mr. Murdoch answered, according to Mr. Emery. Mr. Emery says he replied: “Of course we do.”

According to Mr. Emery, Mr. Murdoch laughed and said, “Why wouldn’t I give instructions to the Times when I give instructions to editors all around the world?” Mr. Evans was eventually forced out by Mr. Murdoch.

On Friday, Mr. Murdoch said his recollection of the conversation was that Mr. Emery “was extremely critical of Harry.” Mr. Emery responds: “Having summoned me to this meeting, it is rather odd that Mr. Murdoch remembers only my criticisms, but not his own statements about the firm promises he had given to the British government” about the papers’ editorial independence. [Wall Street Journal, 6/5/07]

Former Murdoch Editor Greenslade: “As An Editor You Were Never In Any Doubt About What Pleased Him.” Reuters reported:

Roy Greenslade, a media commentator for the Guardian who worked as a senior editor at both Murdoch’s Sun tabloid and the quality Sunday Times, said that from what he saw and heard, Murdoch’s personal editorial involvement was much deeper with his British tabloids than with his two up-market papers, The Times and the Sunday Times. Current and former employees of the Wall Street Journal say that’s the case at that paper as well.

In his earlier days as a UK media mogul, Murdoch was known for literally dictating what tabloid editors would put in their papers, Greenslade told Reuters.

But Greenslade and other News Corp editors also said that as Murdoch’s empire expanded, the Australian-born mogul had less time to micro-manage operations at individual papers.

At the same time he was still able to exert editorial influence by selecting editors who would anticipate his editorial views and whims.

“As an editor you were never in any doubt about what pleased him,” Greenslade said. [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Editor Evans Wrote Of “Constant Fights” With Murdoch. The New York Times reported that former Sunday Times editor Harry Evans said he would constantly fight with then-new publisher Murdoch:

According to interviews with former Times editors and affidavits filed in an unrelated 1995 libel suit, there were clashes over the publisher’s involvement in the paper from the very start.

Harry Evans, who was editor at the time of Mr. Murdoch’s acquisition and was forced out soon after, wrote a memoir vividly describing his constant fights with the new publisher. In his affidavit, Mr. Evans describes Mr. Murdoch’s ordering the publication of a cartoon that Times editors had deemed tasteless and his complaining that too many stories had a left-wing bent. Another former editor said Mr. Murdoch once pointed to the byline of a correspondent and asserted, “That man’s a Commie.” [New York Times, 6/25/07]

House Of Lords Committee Minutes In 2007: Murdoch “Exercises Editorial Control On Major Issues.” Reuters reported:

In 2007, Murdoch himself told a House of Lords committee looking at media ownership and the news that he was a “traditional proprietor” at the Sun and News of the World, according to the committee’s minutes of a meeting with the media boss. “He exercises editorial control on major issues — like which Party to back in a general election or policy on Europe,” the committee noted.

Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News of the World when some of the phone hacking occurred and head of News International until last week, told the same committee that she was “very lucky to have a traditional proprietor like Mr Murdoch, coupled with always having Les Hinton (then head of News International) there as well, who, as you know, was a journalist. Yes, I do seek advice from them and, yes, it is a consensus issue.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Murdoch Editor Neil: Murdoch “Obsessed” With What Papers Say And “Picks” Editors With Similar Worldviews. Reuters reported of former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil and Murdoch:

Neil, the editor of Britain’s Sunday Times for 11 years, told a House of Lords committee looking into media ownership in 2008 that he was never in any doubt what Murdoch wanted, even though he could not recall a direct instruction telling him to take a particular line.

“On every major issue of the time and every major political personality or business personality, I knew what he thought and you knew, as an editor, that you did not have a freehold, you had a leasehold … and that leasehold depended on accommodating his views,” he said.

“Rupert Murdoch is obsessed with what his newspapers say. He picks the editors that will take the kind of view of these things that he has and these editors know what is expected of them when the big issues come and they fall into line.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Editor Neil: Murdoch “Puts People In Who Will Do His Bidding.” The New York Times reported of Murdoch:

Fred Emery, another former Times editor, said Mr. Murdoch once said to him: “I give instructions to my editors all around the world; why shouldn’t I in London?”

The turmoil of those first years subsided, in part, one former Times editor said, because Mr. Murdoch got rid of those who did not adhere to his politics. “He puts people in who will do his bidding,” said Mr. Neil, the former editor.

The current editor of The Times, Robert Thomson, paints a different picture: “I’ve had absolutely no interference and a lot of investment in a loss-making newspaper, for which Rupert Murdoch gets no credit.” [New York Times, 6/25/07]

Former Editor Neil: Murdoch Called Me About Paper’s Coverage Related To Potential Murdoch Business. The Wall Street Journal reported that former Sunday Times editor Neil said Murdoch complained to him about his paper’s coverage of an issue that was connected to a “potentially lucrative future market for Mr. Murdoch”:

In 1993, Mr. Murdoch focused on building a television-satellite business in Asia by buying a controlling stake in satellite broadcaster Star TV. His new clout in Asian satellite television drew widely reported criticism from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Malaysia did not yet have a consumer satellite-TV service. But it was a potentially lucrative future market for Mr. Murdoch because it had lots of English speakers who might like Star’s English-language channels.

News Corp.’s Sunday Times published articles alleging a British company was prepared to bribe Malaysian officials to win a construction contract. According to Sunday Times’s editor at that time, Andrew Neil, Mr. Murdoch called him and complained that he was “boring people” and that he should stop the coverage. Mr. Neil said the row damaged his relations with Mr. Murdoch and contributed to his decision to leave the paper for a job on a new TV show in the U.S. on Mr. Murdoch’s Fox network. The show never went beyond pilot episodes and Mr. Neil left News Corp.

Mr. Murdoch says the Malaysian prime minister never complained to him about the stories. But Mr. Murdoch says he did criticize them to Mr. Neil. “I remember the story which they tried to run and run and run. I said, ‘Are you sure of your facts? Have you gotten a smoking gun here?’ I might have asked him that. But I never tried to stop it or anything else.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/5/07]  

Former Editor MacKenzie “Would Hear From Murdoch On A Daily BasisIn The 1980s. Reuters reported of Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor for the Murdoch-owned The Sun:

In the 1980s, the Sun’s MacKenzie would hear from Murdoch on a daily basis — not quite to discuss exact headlines, but to make sure the newspaper would report the major issues as the press baron saw fit.

Greenslade, recalling the relationship between Murdoch and MacKenzie, told the same House of Lords committee that the editor would regularly come off the phone “rubbing his backside as if he had been given a good kicking on the phone”. [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former News Of The World Reporters: Murdoch A “Hands-On Owner.” Reuters reported of former reporters for the now-closed News of the World: 

Three former News of the World reporters who spoke to Reuters also remember a hands-on owner.

“Rupert comes across as quite unassuming,” said one. “‘The quiet assassin,’ we used to call him. He used to turn up unannounced — you wouldn’t know he was there. No jacket, sleeves rolled up, at the back bench, quite hands-on.”

Another said: “If the Murdochs were in town, there’d be massive pressure to get some sensational story that weekend.”

A third, a correspondent for the News of the World in New York for a period, agreed that Murdoch liked to get involved. But based on practices in his U.S. newspapers, this person said, “I think the whole thing (alleged phone hacking and police bribery) will have horrified Murdoch.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Murdoch Hands-On In America

Reuters: “Murdoch Chats On A Daily Basis” With Wall Street Journal Editor Robert Thomson. Reuters reported of the relationship between Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson and Murdoch:

According to current and former employees of Dow Jones, Murdoch chats on a daily basis with the editor of the Journal, Robert Thomson, both by phone and by wandering down to the Journal newsroom at News Corp headquarters on Sixth Avenue. Murdoch enjoys occasionally bantering and gossiping with other editors and reporters whom he has come to know in the Journal newsroom, these people say.

A News Corp insider agreed Murdoch occasionally trades gossip with editors and reporters, but said it never went further than that. [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Murdoch Went Into WSJ Newsroom With His “Own Editor Of Choice.” From Michael Wolff’s book The Man Who Owns The News

Murdoch’s march into the Wall Street Journal newsroom with his two lieutenants — loyal Les Hinton, who ran News Corp.’s U.K. operation and who would be coming to run the Dow Jones business, and inscrutable Robert Thomson, the London Times editor, who would be taking over the Journal’s newsroom — was not the arrival of someone who wanted his great purpose and historic destiny to be roundly applauded. Rather, with the back of his hand, he let it be known that the Wall Street Journal was his most recently conquered nation — the staff at the Journal, many of whom were soon to be displaced persons, were merely history’s flotsam and jetsam. They were the impediments to change. He was the change agent. “We might,” he said one afternoon as he considered his new conquest, “have to let people go just to make a point.” He summarily replaced Dow Jones’ top executive, Richard Zannino, and the Journal’s publisher, L. Gordon Crovitz. He was purposely brutal with the sitting editor, Marcus Brauchli — who was, in theory, protected by the editorial agreement Murdoch had entered into with the Bancroft family in order to buy the paper. Doing an easy end run around the agreement that precluded him from unilaterally firing the existing editor, Murdoch had brought in his own editor of choice, Thomson, an Australian, and called him the publisher. The News Corp. people were bemused that people didn’t immediately understand that Thomson’s arrival as publisher was a demotion of Brauchli. The News Corp. people did not even let Brauchli speak at Murdoch’s first meeting with the entire newsroom.

“Doesn’t he understand it’s our paper now?” said one of the executives closest to Murdoch, smacking his head. And if publicly disregarding (and dissing) Brauchli didn’t make the point, “the fact that Rupert will stop speaking to him will,” the executive chuckled. Although Murdoch offered some begrudging words about working together when he spoke to the staff, what he actually meant, News Corp. people were explaining, was that if you had a problem, leave. There was work to do, a paper to put out. A Murdoch paper. [Michael Wolff, The Man Who Owns The News, Pages 5-6

Former NY Post Employee: Murdoch Really “Hands-On” During Paper’s Gore-Bush Recount Coverage. Reuters reports of former NY Post employees and Murdoch:

A News Corp insider agreed Murdoch occasionally trades gossip with editors and reporters, but said it never went further than that.

But the experience at the New York Post, at least on one occasion, was different, according to a former employee at the paper.

“You kind of knew what he wanted and what he didn’t want. You knew what kind of stories to do and what not to do. But the only time I really saw him hands-on in the newsroom for any sustained period was the seven week Gore-Bush (electoral) recount. He was there and he wanted to make sure we were on it the way he wanted us to be on it.

“There is no doubt obviously who they wanted to win the election.”

A former veteran New York Post reporter described Murdoch as having had “his hands all over the Post. I used to see him in the newsroom something like twice a week sometimes when he was in New York, especially if something big was happening in politics or business.”

While Murdoch “used to give us tips about people he wanted us to go after especially in business and politics,” this reporter said the Post did not use things like private investigators or phone tapping.

“When he bought the Journal we started to see him a lot less,” the former reporter said. “It seemed the Post had lost its luster and he had this new plaything. Some people started wondering if the Post was long for this world.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Post Reporter: Murdoch “Would Edit The Paper.” From The Wall Street Journal:

“In the beginning, when he first took over, he was there like almost every day,” says Michael J. Berlin, a reporter at the Post from 1966 to 1988. “He would go out to the composing room, his sleeves rolled up…trying to get more pizzazz into the paper.” Roger Wood, then the paper’s editor, says that whenever he went on vacation, Mr. Murdoch “would edit the paper.”

New York’s feisty tabloids, the Post and the Daily News, have a long tradition of bashing one another. Under Mr. Murdoch, the Post frequently disparaged the Daily News and wrote about the finances of its owner, Mortimer Zuckerman, calling him “Suck-Up Zuck” in one prominent headline.

In 1996, the Post ran a two-page spread about Fox News’s opening of its Manhattan studio, with photos of Mr. Murdoch, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and other celebrities. One story began: “Politicians, celebrities and journalists gathered under one festive tent last night to toast Sixth Avenue’s newest — and newsiest — showcase: the Fox News Channel.”

Mr. Murdoch said on Friday: “We’re all in it together. We’re a pretty close company. They didn’t do it to say, let’s suck up to Murdoch….They’d like to see it succeed, probably.”

That same year, the Post took aim at Ted Turner when Time Warner Inc. declined to carry News Corp.’s Fox News Channel on its New York cable systems. Mr. Turner had just sold Turner Broadcasting, the owner of Fox’s rival, Cable News Network, to Time Warner. “Is Ted Turner nuts? You decide,” read the Post’s front-page headline on Oct. 21, 1996. The accompanying article discussed Mr. Turner’s role in Time Warner’s decision. The headline wasn’t Mr. Murdoch’s idea, according to then-editor Ken Chandler.

“Well, we were in a war,” says Mr. Murdoch of the coverage. He says he approved of using the Post to go after Mr. Turner, but hastens to add: “You’re talking about the daily New York Post in the same breath as The Wall Street Journal. They’re not the same.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/5/07]

Murdoch Hands-On In Australia

Former Murdoch Editor Guthrie: Murdoch Hosted Editorial Conferences To Get Editors “Inculcated With A Culture.” Reuters reported of Bruce Guthrie, former editor at the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun: 

Murdoch’s influence, former News Corp staff say, was not restricted to Britain and explains why so many of his titles around the world took the same editorial stance on major issues, such as the Iraq war.

Guthrie told Reuters that Murdoch regularly hosted editorial conferences at which he would make his feelings known.

“You leave the conference kind of inculcated with a culture,” said Guthrie, who won damages from the company in 2008 for unfair dismissal.

“That’s the way it’s done, it’s almost by stealth, but you leave those conferences with an almost collective view — certainly with the knowledge of what the boss wants.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Former Murdoch Australian Journalist: Murdoch Liked To Employ Those Who Could Anticipate His Next Step. From Reuters:

Another former News Limited journalist in Australia, who asked not to be named, agreed that Murdoch liked to employ people who could anticipate his next step.

“They know how to think,” the former journalist said. “People are put in these jobs because they understand News Corp and how Rupert thinks so they don’t have to be micro-managed.” [Reuters, 7/19/11]

Media Matters for America intern Marcus Feldman contributed to this item.


Watt, House GOP Leaders, Plan Sneak Attack On Ethics Office

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:43 am by HL

Watt, House GOP Leaders, Plan Sneak Attack On Ethics Office
Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), with the help of Republicans leaders, is launching a sneak attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the only quasi-independent ethics watchdog policing the behavior of members of Congress, seeking to cut its funding by 40 percent.


Colbert On Voter ID Laws: Why Not Let Only GOP Lawmakers Vote? (VIDEO)
Stephen Colbert has only one explanation why politicians he doesn’t vote for are elected: voter fraud! Colbert on Wednesday addressed the rise of restrictive voter ID laws around the country, saying they ensure only the right people vote. Take New…


Murdoch’s War: Recent death notices from Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:40 am by HL

Murdoch’s War: Recent death notices from Iraq
Press Release 20110715-01, July 15, 2011: U.S. service member killed in southern Iraq. United States Forces Iraq PAO: BAGHDAD – A U.S. service member was killed Friday while conducting operations in southern Iraq. http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. Press Release 20110710-01, July 10, 2011: U.S. service member killed in southern Iraq. United States Forces – Iraq PAO: BAGHDAD – A […]


The Mega Donors Game

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:39 am by HL

The Mega Donors Game
Morning Score has a letter from the National Republican Senatorial Committee to over 300 partners at the law and lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro — where Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra works — that seeks to switch their fundraising allegiance after the Michigan Democratic Party attacked Hoekstra for his association with Dickstein Shapiro, the firm that defended Bernie Madoff.

From the letter: “It is remarkable that a well respected law firm such as Dickstein Shapiro, which has contributed over $250,000 to Democratic committees over the course of the last two cycles – including $17,000 to Michigan Democrats – would have its reputation so readily targeted by the very beneficiaries of its political largesse… To the extent that I, or anyone at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, could be of assistance to Dickstein Shapiro in re-evaluating in which party to place its political capital.”

Military Gay Ban to End in 60 Days
Top Pentagon leaders will notify Congress as early as today that the Defense Department is ready to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The action means the ban will formally disappear in late September.

Perry Within Striking Distance
A new Fox News poll shows the national scene for the Republican presidential nomination much less certain than their last poll in early June, as Mitt Romney takes 17% (down 6 points), Rick Perry has 14% in his first appearance in the poll, and Michele Bachmann takes 10% (up 4 points).

The Obama matchup: “Romney does best against the president and is the only GOP candidate to keep Obama’s edge to single digits. Obama tops Romney by 6 percentage points. In addition, Romney is the only Republican in these early matchups to top Obama among independents — by 6 points… Finally, the poll shows women voters are neither more nor are they less likely to back Bachmann than any of the other Republicans over Obama.”

Meanwhile, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll finds Romney at 16%, Perry at 14%, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani at 13% and Bachmann at 12%.


The Unemployed Aren’t Invisible: Washington and the Media Just Aren’t Paying Attention

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:38 am by HL

The Unemployed Aren’t Invisible: Washington and the Media Just Aren’t Paying Attention
America’s 14.1 million unemployed aren’t voiceless; it’s just that no one is listening, and no one’s got a plan to help them.

21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor
In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit.

How Drone Strikes, Assassinations, and Eye Scans are Uniting the Middle East–Against the U.S.
Obama’s proved his ability to be a uniter–at least in the Middle East, where public opinion is nearly united in opposition to U.S. foreign policy.


What The UN Vote Means–And Does Not

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:37 am by HL

What The UN Vote Means–And Does Not
My friend Alvaro de Soto, the former Special Ambassador of the United Nations’s Secretary-General to the Middle East peace process, is a legend in the UN, from which he is now retired. Peruvian by birth, an aide to Secretary-General Javier…

Puncturing the Anti-Government Big Lie
What’s to be done about a domestic political discourse becoming unmoored from reality? The debt ceiling stand-off and early rounds of the 2012 campaign debate on the economy are disheartening markers of the sorry state of American politics. One of…


Marriage Alliances and George R.R. Martin?s Portraits Of Institutional Sexism

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 22nd, 2011 4:36 am by HL

Marriage Alliances and George R.R. Martin?s Portraits Of Institutional Sexism
Henry Farrell, in what I think is a totally fair critique of my Foreign Policy piece on international relations and A Song of Ice and Fire, points out what I think is a point that has implications for the series’ gender politics as well as its look at IR issues: Marriages are the most potent […]

Henry Farrell, in what I think is a totally fair critique of my Foreign Policy piece on international relations and A Song of Ice and Fire, points out what I think is a point that has implications for the series’ gender politics as well as its look at IR issues:

Marriages are the most potent instrument for creating alliances, even if they don’t always work as they should (the most recent book mentions a feud between two families that has gone on for centuries, despite numerous intermarriages which have mingled their blood. Numerous suitors believe that the way to control Daenerys’ dragons is through winning her hand.

But more subtly, intra-familial relationships have profound international consequences. Jealousies between brothers lead to the sundering of realms. Theon Greyjoy – one of the more unpleasant characters in the earlier books – becomes more sympathetic as we realize that his erratic nastiness is in part the result of his having been stranded between two families. Fostered and adopted as a hostage by the Starks after his father’s failed rebellion, he finds himself unable to find a place in his old family, but unable fully to become a member of his new family either. And none of this begins to touch on the political consequences of bastardry, of adultery (which, when committed by the queen, becomes high treason) &c&c. Martin doesn’t force this down our throats – it emerges only as necessary to the plot. But it really does speak to the differences between the mediaeval world and our own (he’s less successful by far at portraying non-Western societies – but that’s a whole different set of questions).

Independent of how Martin writes actual sex scenes, one thing he does very, very well is point out how forced marriages and the rights men have to sexual access to some women can lead to both emotional and physical degradation of women. Cersei Lannister is one of the most unsympathetic characters in the series, but Martin makes clear how poisoned she was by her marriage to Robert Baratheon, who threw it in her face that he was sleeping with other women and subjected her to repeated marital rape. Even if Sansa Stark thinks she wants to marry Joffrey Baratheon at one point, the marriage agreement between them subjects her to domestic abuse delivered by the Kingsguard and the perpetual threat that she’ll be raped once she loses her father’s protection. Roose Bolton’s decision to take Ramsay Bolton’s mother even though she’s already married because he thinks he has the right to have sex with her at least once leads to the birth of one of the most brutal characters in the series, who has violent and degrading sex with his wife against her will (of course, there’s the double cruelty of Jeyne Poole being married off in Arya Stark’s stead). Arranged marriage may be the “most potent instrument for creating alliances” in Martin’s universe, but every step of the way, he’s clear about the cost that women pay to ensure the stability of states.