Will Murdoch change his spots?
News Corp’s acquisition of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, is finally confirmed. The WSJ promises its readers that “the same standards of accuracy, fairness and authority will apply to this publication, regardless of ownership” and there are plans to set up a committee that will have power of veto over News Corp’s editorial decisions.
But will Murdoch really leave editorial alone? History suggests not. Andrew Neil, former editor of News Corp’s Sunday Times, tells how Murdoch would regularly send him clips from – ironically – the Wall Street Journal in a not-so-subtle attempt to influence editorial direction. In his highly entertaining book, The Insider, Piers Morgan (now of America’s Got Talent fame) reports that when he was editor of UK Sunday tabloid News of the World, Murdoch would call every week to check on the front page story and insist it be changed if he didn’t like it.
Murdoch is notorious for using his newspapers to further his own personal and political ends. Under his direction, The Sun changed its political allegiance from Conservative to Labour for Britain’s 1997 election, claimed to have “swung” the election for Tony Blair and then used the Sun’s huge public influence to put pressure on Blair. According to Piers Morgan, Blair was paranoid that the Sun would do to him what it did to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock.
Of course, we all hope it will be different this time and that the leopard will change its spots…
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