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The difference between News Corp and Mainstream Media is not right vs. left but businessmen vs. journalists 10/4/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in News Corporation.
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The first two minutes of this video interview of News Corp President Peter Chernin should be mandatory viewing for anyone in the news business who wants to remain there. Think of the interviewer as Mainstream Media, asking the new owners of the Wall Street Journal the somewhat narcissistic questions that many modern journalists are asking today. The first one is, “Is the editorial integrity of the Wall Street Journal safe?” What that really means is will editorial writers be free to write what modern journalists tend to write, free from pressures from their own management, competition, or demands from their own readers. The next question is whether News Corp will “Page 6-ify” the Wall Street Journal, meaning will they add gossip and other material considered too low-brow for journalists’ tastes.

Peter Chernin, President, News CorpPeter Chernin rejects the premises, and is puzzled why anyone would expect a businessman to do anything other than what businessmen do. They try to maximize profits by creating and developing products that are increasingly appealing to customers. To News Corp., newspapers are products, not public services or branches of government. Readers are customers, not “citizens” as journalists prefer to call them. He speaks of building “brands,” the foolishness of radical changes that might alienate current customers, and the wisdom of investing additional resources to achieve growth. If you wanted your newspaper to survive, would you rather it be run by a businessman like Mr. Chernin or an heir from a founding family who tends to agree with staff that it is all about what journalists believe and not what customers want? The question answers itself.

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