You may recall that Staff Writer Marisa Demarco bequeathed that nickname to Rupert Murdoch not that long ago [Re: Thin Line, “Protest Asshat,” July 5-11]. If ever there were a time when the appropriateness of that moniker fit like a caterpillar in a cocoon, it is now, with the shattering news that Murdoch is to buy the Wall Street Journaland its parent company, Dow Jones.
Murdoch, to those who may be confused over the sudden outburst regarding this event, is the owner of News Corp., one of the six companies that control the vast majority of the world’s media. News Corp., in addition to raking in nearly $24 billion in 2005 (by the way, Dow Jones and the Journal are going to Murdoch for $5 billion), owns more than 35 TV stations, 14 cable networks, 11 film studios, eight magazines, 28 newspapers (soon to be 29) and HarperCollins, one of the largest publishing houses in the world.
Why is the sale so devastating? FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said it most succinctly in a statement he released on the transaction Aug. 1: “This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices … What’s good for shareholders of huge media conglomerates isn’t always what’s good for the public interest or our civic dialogue.”
But just because the FCC seems to have a rather obvious stance on the issue doesn’t mean it’ll be able to prevent the sale from going through. FCC laws and regulations tend to have a way of working in The Big Six’ favor. The American public is no longer waiting to discover whether the buyout of one of our country’s most venerable flagship institutions will proceed, but how long it will take for Murdoch to bloody the whole thing up, how long it takes him to crush its reputation—and, in the end, whether he’ll still be leeching on.
The Dow Jones company states on its website that, “Since 1882, the Dow Jones name has been synonymous with accuracy, integrity and trust.” How well will that trust hold up with the paper’s readers when Murdoch’s business interests begin to trickle into editorial coverage?
Murdoch expert Jack Shafer predicts on Slate that the final flourish in this story will end with Murdoch growing tired of the paper and, after derailing its credibility, pawning it off.
But whether or not he ever abandons the Journal is almost beside the point. Whatever Murdoch ultimately does with one of our nation’s most treasured newspapers, the result is the same: The Journal, or at least the way Americans view it, will die. There will be one less voice that means something. The public will be shielded from yet more necessary news. And our distrust of the media will, almost rightfully, swell to even more mammoth proportions.
So consider this a requiem for one of our papers of record. Rest in peace, Wall Street Journal, you’ll be missed.