Business

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

Preposterous. That was the first response from the Bancroft family to Rupert Murdoch's offer to buy Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal. But today the family sits down with Murdoch to entertain his $5 billion offer. Media critic Jack Schafer at Slate.com says the Bancrofts should be wary of any promises Murdoch makes to keep the newspaper respectable.

And Jack joins me now. Jack, are you saying that as soon as Murdoch gets his hands on the Wall Street Journal, we'll be reading about Paris Hilton on the front page?

Mr. JACK SCHAFER (Slate): Only in your dreams.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHAFER: Really what's going to happen, it'll be more about what you won't read. When Rupert Murdoch's business interests collide with journalism at any of his publications, it's journalism that gives way. For instance, in China, where he owns a satellite television company called Star TV, when the Chinese got a little irate about him carrying the BBC News on one of the channels, he knocked it off, and admitted that he did this as part of the price of doing business.

BRAND: Interesting. So this family, the Bancroft family, they have made a lot of statements saying that they want to preserve the integrity of the Wall Street Journal. And so why would they sit down with Rupert Murdoch if he has this history?

Mr. SCHAFER: If you on your house, and I offered you twice what the going rate for it is, you'd probably sit down with me even if I were Satan. So I think that's essentially why the Bancrofts are sitting down. Also, the Bancroft family is not a family as you and I would know it. It has dozens of members. And these are all heirs to the Bancroft family at the turn of the previous century, the 1900s.

You know, it's very hard for 36 people in a family to agree on any strategy. So I think what they're doing now is that $60 a share price, which is about twice what the stock was being quoted at, is just too irresistible for many of the members and they'll probably sell.

BRAND: Jack, you write in your column today that he went through a similar courtship with the owner of the New York Post, some 30 years ago.

Mr. SCHAFER: In 1976, Rupert Murdoch wanted very desperately to buy the New York Post tabloid newspaper in New York. It was a liberal tabloid. And Murdoch gave everybody, including Dorothy Shift, the owner, the assurances that it would be, quote, "a serious newspaper," close quote. And he told the New York Times, quote, "the political policies of the paper will stay unchanged." And Rupert Murdoch lies and he lies again and again. This was a transparent lie because he immediately changed the politics of the newspaper to much more like the right-wing conservative tabloids that he publishes in England and in Australia.

But the important thing here is that people sort of think of Rupert Murdoch as a right-wing monster. He's not a right-wing monster. His politics are completely flexible, and what he likes to do is bet on winners. His instincts are for the right wing, but when it suits his purposes, he's totally willing to back a liberal candidate, as he did Tony Blair of the Labour Party in England. And he just, you know, recently threw a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton for president.

So you know, the important thing to understand Murdoch is, one, that he lies; you can't believe anything coming out of his mouth. And two, he'll do whatever he has to do to succeed, and that often includes lying.

BRAND: Jack Schafer is media critic for the online magazine Slate. Thanks, Jack.

Mr. SCHAFER: Thank you.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from