Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rupert's New Record

A friend who works for a division of Rupert Murdoch's media empire passed along the company newspaper, News Corp World, "The international newspaper for the staff of News Corporation." The big news in Corp World is that the New York Post has just surpassed the New York Daily News (its biggest competitor) and the Washington Post as the fifth largest newspaper in the U.S.

So now the Post sells more than 700,000 copies a day. What's there secret? Rupie weighs in: "We have created a newspaper with a unique voice that reflects the heart and soul of New York." That's kind of vague. The Post's editor Col Allan was more direct, but he was only paraphrased:
"This is a joyous occasion for the paper and its readers," Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said, adding that the Post's success is based on a simple concept: Give the people what they want.
It's too bad the people lost their appetite for news.

Rupert bought the Post, a once respected paper, on November 20, 1976. And according to Jonathan Mahler, in his book Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning, the paper was so out of touch that the Times and the Daily News reported the sale first. Mahler describes Rupert Murdoch's sordid rise to newspaper supremacy in Autralia:
The Australian newspaper world was a vicious one, and Murdoch fought his way through one circulation war after another, routing numerous opponents who were much better armed. His burlesque formula -- some sex, some crime, some news, and plenty of hysterical headlines -- proved an invaluable weapon. Murdoch had an undeniable gift for the so-called screamer (SEX OUTRAGE IN SCHOOL LUNCH BREAK topped a Sydney Daily Mirror leader in which he reprinted confessional exceprts from the diary of a teenage girl).
Maybe the Post was doomed to this sort of fate. As Mahler points out, the paper's founder, Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel (by Aaron Burr) and its first editor "was bludgeoned to death from behind by a political opponent." Still, the Post was once less vulgar. And it was once quite liberal.

Give the people what they want. Is that my smoking gun? My proof that the Post is a crappy paper? If so, it's also proof that the average Dick and Jane Sixpack are philistines. Liberals are often shouted down for calling regular folks simpletons. That's a distraction. Forget for a moment who reads the Post and why. Look at it. Today's three leading headlines, online:

LOOK MA, NO DIAPERS, in which an infant shits in a toilet instead of diapers. Part of a growing trend, says the Post.
TWO FOR THE SHOW, in which sports writer Mike Vaccaro gabs about the Jets and the Giants.
TEEN CARD TRICKS, in which local kids are using the DMV's website to get fake IDs.

It's not news, and neither is the New York Daily News (sample headline from today: "Girl sez men forced her to rob bank"); it's entertainment.

[The Rupert portrait above is a painting by the artist Jonathan Yeo]

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