Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tomorrow is Dying for Rupert Murdoch






James Bond would be extremely proud as he surveys the damage Rupert Murdoch has created for himself. You may recall the Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" featuring actor Jonathan Pryce as the malevolent media mogul, Elliott Carver. The story is loosely based on the actions and companies formed by Robert Maxwell and Mr. Murdoch, whose worldwide media empires were, we now know for certain, really in the business of fabricating and staging the news stories they reported.

Mr. Murdoch has revived William Randolph Hearst's famous instructions to Frederic Remington, a famous photographer (technically an artist in Cuba during the Spanish American War). When Hearst asked for pictures of the war, Remington replied "There will be no war." Hearst replied, "You provide (furnish) the pictures, I'll provide (furnish) the war".

This is clearly the mantra of the Murdoch Empire. Remember, Murdoch, an American, owns Fox News, where we suspect the "F" often stands for Fabrication.

My forecast is that the Murdoch situation is just the predicate to an emerging media story involving fabrication of news in journalism as a whole. The New York Times' dramatic move to showcase opinion journalism and embrace it literally throughout its pages is the greatest manifestation of what we'll probably come to call the "Murdoch Effect". Since the news is simply too boring, it needs to be spiced up by energizing, colorful language and situations created by characters committed to changing the world from their own perspectives.

When PR News asked me to grade Murdoch's crisis management performance thus far, this is what I told them:


"C" for Catastrophe: Terminating a major business unit, losing a major acquisition deal, and his global humiliation before the British Parliament. These are just the beginning steps in the story.

"A" for Arrogance Run Amuck. He's been abandoned by those he intimidated and by his media buddies who salivate most at eating one of their own.

"E+" for Extraordinarily Evil Activity. How else do you describe the despicable actions designed to hurt, embarrass, and humiliate people?



Will Murdoch suffer much from this circumstance? Probably not. Will Murdoch's empire be harmed in many serious ways by this situation? Probably not. Will Murdoch learn many, if any, lessons from these circumstances? Probably not. Will the abuses and problems yet to be uncovered in the United States by federal investigators have much impact on journalism or Mr. Murdoch? Probably not. Fox News will continue to be the most watched of the bloviating channels.

Will bloviators, bellyachers, and back bench critics enjoy watching him suffer? Absolutely.

What is his crisis management strategy? It's called applying the Insulating Capacity of Money, something not often talked about. The more money you have, the more insulation you get from almost anything that could hurt you, damage your interest, or even make your life uncomfortable.

Malcolm Forbes, the Harley Davidson riding son of the founder of Forbes magazine and always one of the world's richest men, was inevitably asked by every interviewer whether he ever thought there might be some value in having been poor for part of his life. Every time he explained with great patience, something like "Given the choice, I would always pick rich." Mr. Forbes and Mr. Murdoch are two peas in a very comfortable and posh pod.




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