By Curtiss, Richard H.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. 22, No. 5
RUPERT MURDOCH: Despite Affairs Worldwide, His Heart Stays With Israel
Press lord Rupert Murdoch was born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 11, 1931. His grandfather was a Protestant minister who immigrated to Australia from Britain. Rupert's father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was a newspaper publisher, and his mother an Orthodox Jew, although Murdoch never offers that information in his biographies. He later became an American citizen for business reasons. Depending on which biography you choose to believe, Murdoch either had humble origins as a newspaperman (Murdoch's version), or was given a first-rate education at Oxford's Worcester College and eventually turned his inheritance into a multi-billion-dollar company.
At any rate, after finishing his degree and working for two years at Britain's Daily Express, Murdoch returned to Australia in 1952 and learned the publishing business from his father, publisher of the Melbourne Adelaide News. It is clear that Murdoch was financially comfortable before embarking on his meteoric rise, as he quickly added the Sydney Mirror and the News of the World and The Sun in London to his expanding collection of media outlets.
Murdoch was a gambler in every sense of the word as he moved into the newspaper and publishing market. Time and again, his willingness to take chances led him to risk putting an entire deal together on a shoestring. Murdoch acquired newspapers in Australia, always on a tight budget, and always eventually turned a profit. His detractors maintain that he managed this mainly by featuring titillating material in his newly-acquired publications.
As Murdoch moved into the international arena, such bad taste remained the hallmark of all his achievements. Even the august Times and Sunday Times of London were overrun in the 1980s by an unending diet of racy stories after Murdoch's News Corporation took control.
As it turned out, Murdoch was absolutely right in believing that sensational photographs and so-called "juicy" material cheapened a publication but vastly increased its circulation. More recently, the same has been true of Murdoch's acquisitions in the United States. Of the two most sensationalistic newspapers in New York-the New York Post and the Daily News-the former is run by Murdoch, the latter by Morton Zuckerman.
Notably, while Zuckerman's employees frequently complain about his constant meddling, New York Post reporter Gersh Kuntzman insists that "in the newsroom, everyone loves [Murdoch]. He's really charismatic, a very intelligent person, not just a figurehead."
Although Kuntzman denies that Murdoch pressures his employees on the paper's content, he admits that page two of the Post is referred to internally as the "Pravda Page"-meaning that whenever a business or political interest of Murdoch's makes news, it appears on page two, regardless of whether that news would interest Post readers. "Maybe our editor, Ken Chandler," Kuntzman suggests, "is trying to catch Murdoch's eye."
According to former Murdoch executive David Salter, that is what most News Corporation executives do, "[falling] over each other trying to out-praise his business acumen and flair, conveniently forgetting that [in the early 1990s] the whole News Corporation empire was one tiny financial heartbeat away from total collapse."
Former Times of London editor Harold Evans disagrees with Kuntzman, insisting that Murdoch does indeed make it known what he wants to see printed or broadcast-by constantly disparaging politicians he doesn't like, generally criticizing articles, and sending along copies of articles from other (often right-wing) publications to his employees with notes like "Worth reading!" Clearly, Murdoch indirectly orders his employees, supposedly independent journalists, to adopt positions that are in line with his own politics. Says former Times East Asia correspondent Jonathan Mirsky, the media mogul "does not need to tell [his] editors what to write, they just know. …