The Morning News

Reading The Man Who Owns the News

Book Digest Before I picked up Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff’s (Autumn of the Moguls) new opus, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (Broadway Books), I was dubious about wanting to spend untold hours finding out about the “secret” world of short-fingered vulgarian Murdoch. Or reading over 400 pages in pursuit of that knowledge. Having done some of that (reading), my initial hunch was confirmed—I suspect reading Wolff’s Vanity Fair piece on Murdoch’s pursuit and acquisition of the vaunted Wall Street Journal (reportedly the launching site for this book) and its parent company, Dow Jones, would have been more than sufficient. On the other hand, the hyperbolic dust-jacket copy—“Written in the irresistible style that only an award-winning columnist for Vanity Fair can deliver”—has a ring of truth. Somewhere in this book Wolff makes the point that media companies were creations of the late 20th century. Which is also true of media reporters (except for rarities like Liebling, Kempton, Mailer, and Thompson). And while there is now an inchoate flock of such self-serving pundits, Wolff does frequently distinguish himself in style and deed. It was one thing to make the Manhattan echo chamber of media interesting or at the least readable (which he does), but his gutsy gadfly reporting from Iraq was noteworthy and admirable.

Anyway, the predictable review babble centers around Moloch’s (as a Murdochian, mogul-like character in John Darnton’s amusing Black and White and Dead All Over is named) motives for allowing such a book and then recently attacking its veracity. Do you and I care? I thought so. No matter: Whether or not Mr. Murdoch is sufficiently illuminated, Wolff does shine some light under News Corp’s rocks, and all manner of tidbits provide entertainment and sense to what is today’s messy media jungle.

Wolff, by the way, is also a founder of Newser, a news aggregator that is far and away better than others in its category, and it includes a daily dose of Mr. Wolff’s trenchant commentary, “Off the Grid,” such as this prediction of “sort of the end of Google.” Or better yet, his explanation for the bad New York Times review of this book, bouncily titled “NYT hates Rupe (and Me).” —
SHARE THISEMAIL THIS • FILE UNDER: Dow Jones, John Darnton, Michael Wolff, New York Times, News Corp, Newser, Off the Grid, Rupert Murdoch, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal

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