Folkenflik, left, and Roderick. Zocalo photo by Aaron Salcido
Zócalo Public Square has posted the video and some photos from my conversation the other night with David Folkenflik, the media correspondent for NPR whose new book is "Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires." Rupert Murdoch, he says, is “the most influential and important media figure in the English-speaking world." We talk about what motivates Murdoch, the effects of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain and what we can expect going forward from his empire in the U.S. — including any simmering interest in buying the Los Angeles Times. Murdoch's local ties include recently buying the Moraga vineyard in Bel-Air.
From Zócalo editor Sarah Rothbard's post on the event, held at The Actors' Gang in Culver City:
Folkenflik explained that Murdoch’s father was a respected, even famous, Australian political journalist and a knight. But Murdoch thought his father had been cheated out of some of holdings at the end of his life by the powers that be; Murdoch himself had inherited from him just one newspaper, in Adelaide. Today, Murdoch continues to define himself by who he thinks his enemies are. And in response to his feeling that the establishment is against him, he has created his own establishment, bringing prominent ex-politicians and leaders into his organizations.
People say Murdoch has been bad for journalism, said Roderick. Has he destroyed good journalism?
“I wouldn’t say he uniformly destroys good journalism,” said Folkenflik, pointing to the large number of journalists the Wall Street Journal employs under Murdoch’s watch; the previous ownership could not have sustained that many reporters. He’s improved the Journal in a lot of ways, said Folkenflik. But there are also a number of instances when reporters have felt they’ve been pulled to the right politically by the leadership at the newspaper.
Roderick asked about the News of the World phone hacking scandal that is continuing to play out in British courts. Folkenflik said that the scandal has shown just how integrated the political and media elite became, thanks to Murdoch and his colleagues. It’s become clear that the political and media elite worked in the interest of each other—and lost their connection with the public. Folkenflik said that the trial of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who later became Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications, was as momentous as it would be if Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, were put on trial for having engaged in some sort of corruption when he was Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief.
Here's a 62-minute Zócalo video of the evening. By the way, during this event the LA Times reported on the web that Brian Stelter of the New York Times was being wooed by CNN to take over as host of "Reliable Sources." Folkenflik was reportedly a finalist for the position. He told me later that he learned seconds before taking the stage that the news was breaking. It comes up in the audience questions.