News Corp. Chief Rupert Murdoch has gotten a lot of crap from all the expected quarters regarding his love of newspapers, but as someone who works in print, it’s just kind of nice to see anybody exhibit that kind of enthusiasm for the medium.
As Variety reported, Murdoch — undaunted by the drag that the Wall Street Journal has been inflicting on News Corp.’s balance sheet — might be interested in making a play for the Los Angeles Times, which continues to suffer under the stewardship of the bankruptcy-declaring, ax-wielding, journalism-hating Sam Zell’s Tribune Co.
Analysts, of course, hate the idea, but as a veteran Murdoch watcher, I’ve always been impressed by his willingness to tell them to bugger off, pursuing assets with true synergy in mind that could potentially yield 2 + 2 = 5 -type benefits. Then again, that’s in part because he understands the ability of (and isn’t afraid to use) media assets to pummel enemies and reward friends, underscored by his stewardship of the New York Post.
In some respects, a dismal stock price might actually be liberating for Murdoch. With virtually every studio’s stock in the tank, he can pursue bigger-picture endeavors, gambling that they’ll pay off down the road, if not necessarily in the next quarterly earnings report.
Granted, this might all be a bad idea, but at a time when the media business is in such a state of flux, it could also be an opportunistic stroke of genius. Either way, as someone working in a seemingly dying profession — watching newspapers commit the equivalent of slow-motion suicide — it’s interesting to see a media mogul wonder if the unabated demand for print content, and its disproportionate influence over the lazy electronic media, possesses unseen (or at least underrated) value.
Contemplating all this in the context of Murdoch’s commitment to advance his children throughthe ranks of his company — even if that meant losing an able lieutenant like Peter Chernin — leaves me asking just one question: Rupert, whether or not this Times thing pans out, is it OK if I call you dad?