martes, julio 31, 2007

Las caras de Murdoch

Papá Bush decía que la familia modelo estadounidense era (y debía serlo) más parecida a los Walton y que a los Simpson. Sin duda, lo mismo piensa Rupert Murdoch acerca de la características liberales de la serie más exitosa de su cadena, pero no tiene problemas en potenciar a sus creativos, aunque se burlen del "jefe". Negocios son negocios. Para los detractores del presidente de News Corp. no existe esta lógica dicotómica en el hombre que ha ofrecido lo que nadie por Dow Jones para adquirir el Wall Street Journal: es un obsesionado por el poder, un monstruo de los medios, un francotirador de la mentira periodística que tiene en Fox su principal munición. Los medios "serios" han salido a cobrarle a Murdoch su cobarde decisión de destruir el periodismo. Sin embargo, hay muchas dudas que quedan en esta avalancha de moralismo periodístico. Cuál es el rol de la compañía de Murdoch, qué ha hecho este australiano que otros medios no hayan imitado alguna vez, qué quiere Murdoch realmente, por qué los medios tradicionales no buscan su crédito en los forados que deja News Corp en la audiencia (la que no consume su prensa), cuál es la real definición de los mega medios que hoy están en pleno desarrollo y el rol de la web para aplacar esta desenfrenada expansión. Y al final, qué cualidad queremos que tenga el periodismo del presente cercano. Queremos que sea similar a los Walton o a los Simpson.

There isn't anyone, except his family (Kennedy-esque in its familial fierceness), and people on his payroll (which has come to include a fair percentage of the media world—my own daughter, a reporter at the New York Post, among them), who has wanted Rupert Murdoch to succeed, or even wished him well. And yet, here we are—he's getting his prize: The Wall Street Journal. The day-late-dollar-short question is this: How come Murdoch, opposed by everybody, always gets what he wants?

Photo illustration by Michael Elins; Peter Morgan/Reuters/Corbis (Murdoch photo).
Just as I was asking myself this, just as Murdoch was going in for the kill at Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal in a storm of media coverage, Steve Jobs was releasing the iPhone in an equal blizzard of press, and Paris Hilton, similarly awash, was getting out of jail. Which is when, watching these simultaneous demonstrations of iron will and showmanship, I understood: publicity geniuses are different from you and me. They have the stomach for it. This temperamental combination of imperviousness and egomania that allows them, compels them, to dominate the media (and Murdoch dominates as both owner and actor) means, too, that they dominate reality, that it's their world and we just … well, you know.

Reality reversal: On March 29, Murdoch tells the Dow Jones C.E.O. he's willing to pay $60 a share for the company. The amount is a dramatic gesture—at more than 60 percent above the share price, a heart-stopping premium. It will make the C.E.O., Richard Zannino, in the job for little more than a year, rich. (It will reportedly make him in excess of $20 million, in fact.) Now, the Bancrofts, the attenuated, old-money family that holds voting control over Dow Jones, have always said, explicitly, the company isn't for sale. They've rejected all past offers, including one from The New York Times. The code of buy and sell is clear: equivocation means you're in play; giving someone the back of your hand means you're not. If Zannino had stonily spurned Murdoch, we'd probably never have heard about the bid (you don't make public offers for unbuyable companies). But Zannino chose to remain "neutral." Since there are many Bancroft-family members, and they're a bit of a stumblebum group, there was no single voice to do the official spurning. Hence, the appearance of equivocation. And then word of the offer was leaked by we know not whom (the Murdoch people deny they are the leakers). Equivocation, combined with the $60 offer, meant the share price immediately went from $36 to $56, suddenly turning everybody's worthless options into gold. To then reject the offer would literally have involved taking money away from people—try that sometime


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