Murdoch Mystery

THE DANGERS OF MEDIA CONSOLIDATION

Posted: August 14, 2007

THE RECENT SALE OF Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, to media shark Rupert Murdoch has raised a lot of questions about media consolidation - questions that, unfortunately, too many news outlets weren't willing to look at until it became clear that they, too, could be chum for News Corp.

America's media aren't completely controlled by one person or group, but it is undeniable that we're on that course. Last year, Knight Ridder, the former owner of this paper and publisher of 31 other newspapers, went up for sale, and the growing conglomerate vultures were circling. unlike the local media group that bought the Daily News and Inquirer. Large conglomerates like McClatchy Newspapers bought up the rest, ensuring that some content from town to town remain unvaried.

To compete, and to avoid takeovers, outlets are cutting budgets, which means fewer reporters to cover stories. When the Journal can post healthy profits hovering around $30 million per quarter, but one man can come in and offer 200 times that to buy the whole kit and caboodle, no one is safe.

A poll of journalists, editors and news executives around the country by the Project for Excellence in Journalism reported that 43 percent of national editors say their staff size has decreased in the past three years. When asked if the "bottom line" was hurting news coverage or just changing the way organizations do things, 74 percent of journalists said it was hurting coverage.

So, the signs have been there for a while that not only are media companies gobbling each other up, but that this trend is having a serious impact on the quality of news. Rupert Murdoch, to be clear, isn't the problem. He's merely a symptom.

Finally, feeling threatened by the growing shadow of Murdoch and his news outlets' conservative slant, Democratic politicians are speaking out more forcefully for the need to maintain a diversity in news sources. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Chris Dodd have started to make this a key issue. Yes, they do so in their own self-interest, but that shouldn't invalidate their point. One can only hope that Republicans make this a main campaign theme as well, because it's only a matter of time before a liberal billionaire tries to beat Murdoch at his own game.

In the end, when politicians and the public fight to ensure varied and diverse ownership in media, we all win. *

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|