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Authors: David Folkenflik

Murdoch's World

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For Nora
—

who warned me never to be boring

And for Jesse and Viola
—

who never are

Copyright © 2013 by David Folkenflik.

Published in the United States by PublicAffairs™, a Member of the Perseus Books Group

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address PublicAffairs, 250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

PublicAffairs books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA, 19103, call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

Book Design by Pauline Brown

Typeset in Century Expanded Lt Std by the Perseus Books Group

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Folkenflik, David.

        
Murdoch's world : the last of the old media empires / David Folkenflik.—First edition.

                 
pages cm

        
Includes index.

        
ISBN 978-1-61039-090-3 (electronic) 1. Murdoch, Rupert, 1931-2. Mass media—Australia—Biography. I. Title.

    
P92.5.M87F65 2013

    
070′.92"dc23

    
[B]

2013014186

First Edition

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1

CONTENTS

        
Author's Note

  
1
    
Two Families

  
2
    
Rupert in Oz

  
3
    
“The Gutter Is a Good Place to Be”

  
4
    
“The World Through Rupert's Eyes”

  
5
    
Fair and Balanced

  
6
    
The “Fog of War”

  
7
    
The Voice of Opposition

  
8
    
The Greening of Rupert

  
9
    
The Flying Muslims

10
    
A Totebag to a Knife Fight

11
    
“As Bad As We Feared”

12
    
Sky's the Limit

13
    
The Yard

14
    
“Goodbye, Cruel World”

15
    
“This One”: Rebekah Brooks

16
    
“Most Humble Day”

17
    
The Jewel in the Crown

18
    
WSJ:
London Versus New York

19
    
“The Only Person in London”

20
    
Ailes Seeks a Legacy

21
    
GoodCo Versus ShitCo

22
    
“We Are Judged by Our Acts”

        
Acknowledgments

        
Selected Bibliography

        
Notes

        
Index

      
AUTHOR'S NOTE

THE EVENTS DESCRIBED IN THIS book opened an unprecedented and broad window into the thinking of Rupert Murdoch, his executives, and the culture at News Corporation (News Corp), the company he has led for more than six decades. Many senior employees have been forced to go on the public record in the United Kingdom as a result of allegations of widespread criminality at News Corp's tabloids there. Yet it is hard to apprehend the context for those scandals without mastering the history of the company, the dynamics of the Murdoch family, and the world they inhabit. This book is an effort to understand and explain what really happened.

News Corp and the Murdoch family made a conscious decision not to cooperate directly in the preparation of this book and actively discouraged others from doing so. That said, I have always found the company to be professional in my interactions with it and have endeavored to round out my reporting and understanding of the events described here in other ways. In particular, I am deeply appreciative of the many current and former News Corp executives and journalists in three countries who have taken time to offer insight, details, and guidance for this book.

As a consequence, however, I have had to rely at times on sources that I cannot identify directly because they are not authorized to talk publicly about News Corp and Murdoch family matters and do not want to jeopardize their jobs or future livelihoods. Every remark or statement presented in this book inside quotation marks is taken
directly from interviews, transcripts, public testimony, court records, contemporaneous notes, speeches, corporate or government documents, or as otherwise specifically noted. Quotations that are italicized were obtained from at least one source with direct knowledge where the import is clear, but the precise wording was not recorded in such a way as to be ironclad months or years later. Quotations taken from news articles, documents, or previous books are noted as such, either in the text or the notes that follow.

This book reflects the knowledge I have gained during my thirteen years covering the media, first for the
Baltimore Sun
and especially since joining NPR News in 2004. NPR News is both my employer and the subject of parts of two chapters of this book. To its credit, NPR has always allowed me to report on the network as my editor and I believe events warrant. Similarly, NPR has approved my decision to write this book but has not sought to influence its content.

1

TWO FAMILIES

THE MAN AT THE CENTER of the maelstrom sat across from the parents of a dead girl, his head cradled in his hands. He rocked slightly.
I'm sorry
, he kept saying.
I'm so sorry
.

He was tanned and reasonably fit, with closely cropped hair that he had allowed to assume its natural gray color. He wore a perfectly cut pinstripe suit and a sharp gray tie, befitting talismans of his status as a commanding corporate chieftain. The people gathered in an expansive suite at
the luxury hotel One Aldwych in the heart of London, a five-star stop that catered equally to Saudi investors and Hollywood celebrities, were all fixed on Rupert Murdoch.

The billionaire was used to being the focus of attention among the powerful, whether they were asking for favors or complaining about the way he ran the English-speaking world's most important media empire. Some competitors could boast a greater market value than Murdoch's News Corp. None was more influential. Murdoch had become a man beyond states, someone who sliced Gordian knots rather than trying to untangle them, a self-styled buccaneer with little but
contempt for self-satisfied establishment worthies or narrow-minded government regulators.

Like one of his own satellites floating above the earth, by 2012 Rupert Murdoch floated above the borders and limitations of the practices, laws, and folkways of mere nations.
His company served millions of readers and viewers on five continents, with a strong presence in the English-language powers of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as in China, Europe, India, and Latin America.

Murdoch had long ago become one of Britain's most powerful figures and cast an even greater shadow in his native Australia. Through the
New York Post
, his company enforced a kind of discipline among politicians who hoped to operate in the largest city in the US. Through Fox News and the
Wall Street Journal
, his journalists shaped popular and elite currents within the Republican Party in the States. And with its movie studios and its broadcast, cable, and satellite TV ventures, News Corp had the financial muscle to ride out losses elsewhere in the empire.

He had used flattery, disdain, and even remoteness to handle presidents, prime ministers, and popes. He had granted audiences to the aspirants and pretenders seeking to join those ranks. To encounter the ordinary people his publications had wronged was a rare event.

Yet here Rupert Murdoch sat, human, even vulnerable. What else could he be, given the other people in the room? Bob Dowler was an IT consultant with a thin crown of white hair,
an imposing presence, and an impassive expression. His wife, Sally, her face pinched and gaunt, was a teacher. They were in their fifties, roughly the same age as Murdoch's daughter from his first marriage. And they had endured unimaginable pain, partly because of one of his most famous properties.

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