Because his money-losing ventures at the Wall Street Journal and New York Post should be all the proof any reporter needs before they type up another glowing profile of Murdoch.
The Times's media writers Tim Arango and Richard Perez-Pena actually inch in the right direction today with an article that details what a significant drag Murdoch's newspapers are on his larger News Corp. empire. They note, "His lifelong fondness for newspapers has become a significant drag on the fortunes of his company, the News Corporation."
And specifically, his 2007 purchase of the Journal looks like an historically bad move in retrospect:
Mr. Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of the News Corporation, paid more than $5 billion for an asset that generated about $100 million in operating income last year, a price that now looks like a staggering overpayment.
Honestly, even "staggering overpayment" doesn't really do justice to just how badly botched the Journal deal; a purchase that may go down as one of the worst in the history of modern media. Think about, Murdoch, in order to win over the Journal's previous owners, paid an absolute premium for the Journal just as the newspaper industry entered its cataclysmic advertising nosedive.
How much did Murdoch pay for the Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones? $65 a share. How much could Murdoch have paid for the Journal if he'd waited two years? (After all, it wasn't like anybody else was clamoring to buy the biz daily at the time.) He maybe would have paid between $10-$15 a share, and that's probably being generous.
Wonder how Murdoch's shareholders feel about that today.
Meanwhile, the New York Post continues to hemorrhage money, as the Times notes:
While Mr. Murdoch's personal attention has lately been on The Journal, the financial performance of the News Corporation's other newspapers is undergoing stricter scrutiny these days. For years, Mr. Murdoch has stomached tens of millions of dollars in annual losses at The New York Post, in exchange for the power the paper afforded him. But given the economic times and the shift of his attention to The Journal, there is a sense of urgency in the News Corporation executive suite about stemming The Post's losses.
I've estimated in the past that since purchasing the Post decades ago, Murdoch has lost nearly $250 million printing his beloved, money-losing tabloid.
Again, I wonder how his shareholders feel about that.
That Glenn Beck is nuts.
I've been expecting this meltdown since Glenn Beck started talking about the "End Times" on his Fox News show last week, but yesterday he went full-on survivalist. All he needs is a sandwich board reading, "Repent, sinners!" Is it irresponsible for Fox News to be airing this over the top, creepy alarmist stuff during a financial crisis? Well, yeah, I think so.
And folks, when LGF starts calling you out for acting irresponsibly, then all bets are off.
David Denby, the well-known film critic for the New Yorker has a new book out called Snark, in which he criticizes the increasingly popular form of the nasty humor. In Sunday's New York Times, Snark was reviewed and close readers might have caught this brief passage:
When he finally reaches the present era, Denby pronounces Tom Wolfe and Maureen Dowd masters of "snarky mimesis..."
Interesting, right? Denby, no fan of snark, singled out the Times' high-profile scribe in his book for her snarky ways. But what did Denby actually say about Dowd in his book? Sorry, Sunday Times readers were given no information. Because the passage quoted above was the only reference reviewer Walter Kirn made to Dowd in his 1,300-word review of Snark. Guess, Denby didn't have much to say about Dowd, right?
Denby's brief book (128 pages) is divided into just seven chapters, yet Denby devotes an entire section to examining Dowd's work. (Chapter seven title: "Maureen Dowd".) She's the only writer Denby detailed in a chapter-length critique. Fully one-seventh of Snark is about Dowd and it's a smack-down: Denby suggests there's something seriously wrong with her work. But in the Times review, Dowd garnered just single, vague passing reference.
For instance, the Times review ignored the fact that Denby wrote, "There's something both gasping and pathetic in [Dowd's] dissatisfaction and she passes that dissatisfaction on to the readers as a kind of blight." He also added that during the Democratic primary season, Dowd's "writing was a desperate, disjointed, and demoralized performance, and it left many readers enraged."
Recently appearing on PBS's Charlie Rose, Denby expanded on the idea:
And Maureen Dowd, who makes fun of people's appearance and affect and manner and so on, I don't see any political idea at all of what the government should be doing, what the point of government is, what the point of politics is. It's all about ambition and sham.
Denby, a high-profile writer for the mighty New Yorker, suggests Dowd's work is doing real damage to the public discourse. But there's no reason Times readers need to be informed about that, right?
Well, not technically. But boy, it sure sounded that way.
It's from a US News & World Report item about Todd discussing why Matthews decided not to run for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania (one of the great non-stories of our time):
NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd has a theory on why MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews begged off from running for the Pennsylvania Senate seat held by Republican Arlen Specter. "Because [Chris] had a really good friend of his say to him, 'What are you going to do when you get there?' and he couldn't answer the question and he realized that, and that's why he didn't run," says Todd. "It was a childhood dream to be a senator, but he didn't know what he was going to do if he got there." [Emphasis added]
Matthews, who has been inside the Beltway for going on, what, four decades, who once worked on the Hill and has been commenting, non-stop, about politics for countless years, had no idea what he'd do if he were a senator.
We've said it before and we'll say it again here: The Beltway press doesn't do public policy. It doesn't get it, and it has even less interest in it. So no, we're not surprised Matthews couldn't figure out why he'd do, y'know for other people, if he ever got elected.
Meanwhile, take a look at Todd's closing comment:
It was the same for 2008 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain, says [Todd] the coauthor of How Barack Obama Won. "They never knew why they wanted to be president."
Oh my. Say what you want about the campaigns of Clinton and McCain, but to suggest those two legislative veterans, who criss-crossed the country for more than a year, participated in dozens of televised debates, answered untold questions from voters and reporters and released all kinds of position papers, didn't know why they wanted to president is complete nonsense. Neither were able to convince enough voters they were the best person for the job, but both Clinton and McCain clearly had a vision and understanding of where they wanted to take the country. They were serious people with serious ideas.
Chris Matthews just likes to hear himself talk. But Chuck Todd will never say so.
No, really. That's what Steve Thomma at the McClatchy-Tribune News Service suggests in his preview of Obama's upcoming primetime address this week before Congress.
Forget the fact that the Dow is down to nearly a decade low and host lost almost 50 percent of its value in the last six months. Or that jobs are being shed at an historic rate and there's even talk of nationalizing our banks. That's not what really matters to the Beltway press corps.
None of that trumps the all-important issue of whether Obama can successfully court Republicans:
[Obama] faces three key questions about how he'll use the moment. First, will he reach out to the Republicans who have felt free to scorn him, or match his popularity against theirs and try to slap them back?
Can you spell d-i-s-c-o-n-n-e-c-t?
the problem is not just the Post's relationship with George Will, but the Post's utter failure to hold their columnists to any reasonable standard in terms of evidence when it comes to climate change and energy pieces.
the Post has a lousy tradition when it comes to correcting egregious errors in their editorial pages. Or, should we say, failure to correct them in a responsible and forthright fashion.
Check out Siegel's post for details and examples of global warming misinformation in the Post's news pages, as well as on its Op-Ed page.
when you, on behalf of what used to be a respected newspaper, endorse his dishonesty, there's something seriously, seriously wrong. There are still honest and competent reporters writing for the Post, but if any article in the paper is to be believed it will now have to be on the basis of the reporter's known integrity and skill, not on the fact of its publication in a newspaper that not only publishes palpable falsehood but then justifies doing so.
This started as a problem for Will, his direct supervisors, and the Post's ombudsman. But now that the Post as a paper is standing behind Will's deceptions, I think it's a problem for all the other people who work at the Post. Some of those people do bad work, which is too bad. And some of those people do good work. And unfortunately, that's worse. It means that when good work appears in the Post it bolsters the reputation of the Post as an institution. And the Post, as an institution, has taken a stand that says it's okay to claim that up is down. It's okay to claim that day is night. It's okay to claim that hot is cold. It's okay to claim that a consensus existed when it didn't. It's okay to claim that George Will is a better source of authority on interpreting the ACRC's scientific research than is the ACRC. Everyone who works at the Post, has, I think, a serious problem.
The Times reporter dutifully anoints the previously unknown Rick Santelli of CNBC a "populist" because he uncorked an on-air rant about the Obama housing recovery while reporting among all-white, all-male traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It was a rant where Santelli suggested Obama was leading America down the road to communism.
But nowhere in her article does the Times reporter explain why Santelli, who Chris Matthews rightfully likened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, in any way tapped into a "populist" feeling. The former VP for Drexel Burnham Lambert (you remember that `80's hothouse of populist fever, right) simply mouthed divisive, right-wing talking points, and disconnected media elites crowned him a populist anyway. The closest Stolberg came to suggesting Santelli articulated populist rhetoric was when she pointed out:
[Santelli] called for the creation of a Web site where Americans could vote on whether they "really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages."
She might think that's "populist," but probably lots of Times readers simply chalk that up as being idiotic.
I'll note upfront that this item doesn't have to do with conservative misinformation. But it does deal with the state of journalism, and it's a topic that's sort of irked me for a while. Plus it's the weekend. So there.
I realize newspaper advertisers are becoming increasingly scarce, and for the Times, Hollywood studios spend tons of money with the daily. But I've been struck recently by the increasingly cozy relationship between the newspaper and the studios; a relationship that as a reader, diminishes the Times' news reputation.
In terms of cozy, I'm talking about the the annual holiday movie special section, which is stacked with ads but rather perfunctory articles, the annual Oscar preview special section, the predictable summer movie preview special section, and the recent Sunday Times magazine, which pretty much devoted its entire issue to feather-light pieces about Oscar nominees.
Slate's Timothy Noah recently took a closer look, noting that the Times' doting on the Oscars comes at a time when fewer and fewer news consumers seem interested in the annual awards presentation:
A Nexis database search turns up, in the New York Times, 251 mentions of the phrase Academy Awards or the word Oscars since Jan. 1. That's more mentions in the Times than for the words Pakistan (186), Geithner (169), foreclosure (142), or Blagojevich (66)...While Times Oscar coverage has been trending upward, the American public's interest in the Academy Awards, as measured by Nielsen ratings, has mostly been trending downward...The 2008 Oscar ratings were the lowest ever recorded. Thirty-two million Americans watched, compared with the peak Oscar audience of 55 million in 1998.
Noah points out that the annual number of Oscar mentions in the Times has nearly doubled in the last ten year, as viewership for the program has been nearly cut in half.
The Times needs to pull way back on its Oscar obsession. There are far more important topics to address (even within the A&E world), and its obsequious coverage often comes across studio butt-kissing, and not much more.
US News & World Report's Washington Whispers page currently features a poll asking readers who they would prefer to run a daycare center for their kids: First Lady Michelle Obama, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
And no, the poll doesn't offer the obvious fifth choice: "Why the hell would anyone ask this question?"
UPDATE: Fixed headline, which originally referred to "Madame Secretary."