Some people are ready to throw the entire journalism trade out with the week’s trash thanks to the deepening Rupert Murdoch scandal. But to some people, this wasn’t a surprise at all.
In 1984, 60 journalists took a stand against Rupert Murdoch. Without them, he quickly ran a once-proud paper into the ground, and he cut his losses and sold out after just two years of ownership. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 1984, Murdoch purchased the Chicago Sun-Times, one of Chicago’s two remaining daily newspapers. Among the Sun-Times’ employees was Mike Royko, the legendary Chicago newspaper columnist. Royko wasn’t one to hold back often, and when he quit, he said exactly why.
No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.
Initially when they heard the rumors, Royko and others tried to arrange different ownership, but failed. So Royko quit, one day before Murdoch officially took ownership, and he took his popular newspaper column to the rival Chicago Tribune, which had been courting him for 12 years. Royko didn’t especially like the Tribune, preferring to work for a scrappy, blue-collar underdog paper, but the Sun-Times wasn’t going to be that under Murdoch.
A total of 60 journalists, mostly veterans, left in the purchase’s wake. The Sun-Times quickly became a clone of Murdoch’s New York Post, and readership dropped. In 1986, Murdoch sold the once-proud (and now struggling) paper, which then undertook a long, difficult road back to respectability.
Royko said Rupert Murdoch didn’t care about quality journalism, but only about using the press to gain political power for himself. Classic yellow journalism.
Other than the occasional glance at the technology section, I quit reading The Wall Street Journal after Murdoch purchased its parent company. But I understand the WSJ has been running editorial after editorial defending Murdoch, and other Murdoch properties have even been trying to spin Murdoch as the victim.
Don’t fall for it.
This week, The Guardian said essentially the same thing Royko said 27 years ago about Murdoch. The part about the political power, not the part about the fish.
It would be nice if some of Murdoch’s current employees would take a stand against him and his despicable practices, like their colleagues in Chicago did in 1984. My theory is that jobs in journalism are scarce these days, and they’re afraid that having Murdoch properties on their resumes will keep them from finding other jobs.
But we can find other newspapers.