The story of the global Murdoch media empire’s alternately triumphant and tumultuous journey into the 21st century.
Media reporter Folkenflik (editor: Page One: Inside the New York Times and the Future of Journalism, 2011) regularly covers Murdoch’s News Corporation (as its American branch is known) for NPR. Articles he wrote for the Baltimore Sun in 2002 questioning the accuracy of Geraldo Rivera’s reporting from Afghanistan earned him the enmity of the News Corp–owned Fox News. That network’s pugnacious conservatism is a hallmark of the Murdoch brand all over the world, most obviously at tabloids like the New York Post but also at the jewels in the empire’s crown: The Australian, the Times of London and the Wall Street Journal. Though a public corporation accountable to stockholders by structure, News Corp is run like a family business for the benefit of chairman Rupert, primarily, and his heirs. An insular “mate” culture throughout the company encourages staff and management to view outsiders as the enemy. “It is the defining contradiction of Rupert Murdoch and his corporation that it has accumulated more influence than any other media company in the world and yet remains convinced of its status as an outsider,” writes the author. Usually, this patently hypocritical stance serves them well in the bloody battles for properties and viewers. But in 2011, when rivals broke the story that Murdoch employees in the U.K. routinely hacked phones of politicians, royalty, and even ordinary people, like a 13-year-old murder victim, in search of scoops, it looked like the corporation’s Achilles’ heel was finally located and would foil its steady march to world domination.
While chapters on Fox News—though amusing and of interest to American media watchers—can seem like material from another book entirely, Folkenflik lucidly and effectively sorts out the complicated phone-hacking story and its political ramifications.