Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What happens if you don't Stop Murdoch?

Just ask anyone who used to have something to do with the 'Wall Street Journal' before Murdoch got his claws into it.

GQ did, and the results are edifying. Some interesting quotes:

Hillary Stout
Former editor, WSJ
The reaction to the offer was absolute, indescribable shock. To me, Murdoch was the tabloid king—topless women and screeching headlines. He was sort of the anti-Wall Street Journal.

Bruce Page
Author, The Murdoch Archipelago
The only investigations that take place in the Murdoch papers are carefully controlled checkbook journalism jobs on minor people and gossip operations. They never take on anything where they don't know how it's going to end, because the people whose toes get trodden on may well be the guys he's doing deals with.

Theo Francis
Former reporter, WSJ
I think the Journal might have been able to stay independent, if that had truly been the focus of the owners and the managers. But it wasn't. The focus of the owners and the managers was the dividend. With Rich Zannino's ascendancy to CEO, I think there's no question that the company was not about journalism any more—it was about making money.

Anonymous #2
Reporter, WSJ
Look, the person who sold us down the river was Rich Zannino. He wanted to do this deal so damn bad. Zannino's been like a Cheshire cat about this deal. He went and got nice and tan after it was all done.

Anonymous #1: Rich Zannino was not well liked in the newsroom. He was actually a figure of some derision. He was not a newspaper person. He was this perpetually tanned—to the point of being nearly orange—guy in perfectly tailored suits in a newsroom that is not known for perfectly tailored suits. What newsroom is? He had a tendency to have one too many buttons undone on his shirt and spoke in corporate-ese. This is of course a newsroom full of business reporters. We pride ourselves on our ability to see through corporate bullshit, and he spoke in nothing but corporate bullshit. Zannino's money came up quite a bit, the amount that he was potentially going to make in a deal. There was a sense that Murdoch had sat down with Zannino; Zannino sees dollar signs and jumps at the deal. He didn't have longstanding ties to Dow Jones or loyalty to the Bancrofts or to the Journal. I don't think anybody ever thought he would stick around after a deal.

Greenspan: Zannino took a couple of breakfast meetings with Murdoch without telling the family, and they were furious at him. So he was sort of a marked man: If the transaction did not happen, he could lose everything. And he had a trigger point in his deal with Dow Jones that if a sale happened, all his options vested, and it was a $20 million payoff. My view is that the board should have pushed back and said, "You forced us into a process, and now we're going to do an official process to sell the company." Murdoch somehow got Zannino to convince the Bancrofts, "Let's not prolong this." And then the media did its thing, which was, "If the Bancrofts don't sell, the stock is never going to recover."

Anonymous #3
Source familiar with the transaction
A big deal was made at the time, though it wasn't written about very much, of the fact that Dow Jones used Goldman Sachs for the deal, and Goldman Sachs had historically been NewsCorp's house bank. Everyone in the deal world talked about it. Everyone. Literally, people, their jaws dropped: "How could you use NewsCorp's banker to advise Dow Jones?" Zannino in particular came in for a lot of criticism: He handpicked Goldman, and he knew that Goldman would make sure the Dow Jones board would approve the deal.

Greenspan: When I met with this special committee of the Board, just Zannino and two or three other guys, they acted like it was a pain in the ass that they had to be in that room. They didn't want me to walk through any of the material, the metrics, that I had put together. There's this one guy, Harvey Golub, who used to be chairman and CEO of Campbell Soup, and every time I tried to talk about why I thought the stock value was greater, he goes, "I don't want to hear from you. I don't want to hear any more about that." I was shocked. They had gotten their bankers all ready to say NewsCorp's offer was fair, so they had checked that box. They weren't looking for other possibilities. Afterward Zannino takes my card and goes, "You've got some really good ideas. I'll follow up with you." Of course I never heard from him.

Anonymous #3: The view on the street was that the fix was in. And that was proved out by how this thing ended, without [Murdoch] increasing the price by one penny. I can't think of a deal where the first bid ended up being the final bid. I just can't think of it in my career, and I've been on Wall Street for thirty years. When management basically rigs a sale so that it's assured of happening, by using a NewsCorp banker, that's pretty outrageous by any standard. I think they thought they could get away with it, that no one would notice.

Calderone: Zannino walked with over $20 million for 18 months' to two years' work. He was supposed to get the newspaper on better financial footing and he walked away with $20 million.

Wow! Who is this Zannino bloke, and what does he do these days? Well, he was appointed to the board of trustees of "Pace University" apparently:
Alongside Zannino, 27 members sit on the BOT. The Chair of the Board is Aniello A. Bianco, alumnus of 1961, who is the vice president of Hildebrandt International. Other alums include Ivan G. Seidenberg of 1981, who is now the chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications and Edward F. Murphy, alumnus of 1974, who is now the executive vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. According to Christopher Cory, executive director of public information, "The experience in the job market that these members of the Board have is great for the University."
What an interesting chap, apparently he is also the managing director of some mob called CCMP (no doubt a shining light of corporate rectitude and propriety!).

Anyway, these days all you need to know is: Murdoch, Zannino, Goldman Sachs = Poooooooo!!!! It Stinks!

Oh, and by the way, has anyone pondered what it might mean that Rupert Murdoch now actually owns the Dow Jones index?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Murdoch's continuing conquest of your ABC

Remember this?

Well funnily enough, we never heard about this until the other day:

ABC Commercial announced today a new commercial partnership with HarperCollinsPublishers Australia as its new publishing and distribution partner for ABC Books.

The announcement concludes a 12-month review of ABC Books and the search for a new publishing partner to take the business into the digital era. ABC Commercial began reviewing ABC Books in February last year, issuing 11 expressions of interest to potential partners in mid September. ...
In fact we were only alerted to it by an advertorial in the "Unwind dine & play" section of the 'Tweed Border Mail' [22/12/09]:

"ABC delicious quick smart cook by Valli Little (HarperCollins, $39.99, out now). The title says it all - quick smart cook is packed with clever ideas for those short on time, as well as smart dishes for stress-free entertaining. ..."

As per usual, apart from The Greens, nobody thought this deal worthy of any consideration.

Thanks to ABC commercial, you now have another way to boycott Murdoch.

Just don't buy any ABC books!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PR Watch on Murdoch's 'Quality' Climate Journalism

"PR Watch" has a fairly basic, but essentially OK, take on Murdoch's bi-polar climate change position. Here are some classic quotes:

"A month ago, Sean Whittington from the Australian PR firm, Field Public Relations, issued a press release promoting a speech by Ian Plimer, a mining company director and noted global warming skeptic. Plimer was one of the skeptics who spoke last week at the oppositional Copenhagen Climate Challenge, which was co-sponsored by the U.S.-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Danish group, Climate Sense. Whittington's media release, issued on behalf of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, a professional group for those working in the mining industry, rather unremarkably featured a dozen paragraphs extracted from Plimer's speech.

Before Plimer had even made his speech, an Australian Associated Press (AAP) journalist filed a story. As blogger Tim Lambert wryly commented on his Deltoid blog, "I think it is awesome that the AAP can report from the future."

Not surprisingly, the wire service story was picked up on News.com.au, a website of Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, which has become a champion of climate change skepticism. AAP is a wire service owned by four major newspaper companies, one of which is News Limited, which holds a 45% stake in the company. On its website, AAP boasts that the pillars of its reporting are " balanced and fair reporting", "get it right, then get it first", and "produce quality news that's ready to use."

But the AAP story on Plimer's speech is an exemplar of the success of PR. Of the dozen paragraphs in Whittington's media release, nine were used in their entirety in the AAP story and another one in a paraphrased form. Only two paragraphs weren't used. None were attributed as being from a media release."

The bold bit is ours. Jeeez! Does Murdoch want to be the king of the 'each way bet' or what? Obviously he has torn a great big hole in his own empire by making himself reliant on the flying rabid monkeys of Fox and his tabloid monsters in Oz, US and the UK for income and his political biffing-stick.

While craving the artificial facade of 'genuine' legitimacy always (rightly) denied to him by usurping the WSJ and such, the fading old fox has wedgied himself on the barbed fence of the chookhouse - he is now so conflicted by riding both sides that he is doomed to self destruct in a "fraud of debtly leverage" as the baird may have put it.

Ta ta, you old wrinkled horror.

Action: Take a break, sit back and make a bet on whether Andrew Bolt or Tim Blair will be the first rat to leap from the stinking ship-pile of floating (and sinking) Murdoch.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why you shouldn't write letters to News Ltd. publications

1. Apart from the fact that at least half of these papers have a single owner and ferociously push his neoconservative, anti-environment agenda, none of these newspapers will treat your input objectively. The corporate media (particularly the Murdoch press) is not your friend.

2. They get to choose what letters to publish and you are participating in the propaganda process because they may alter your raw material to suit their agenda:

This letter was published in this week's 'Gold Coast Sun' [9/12/09]:

The Australian Press Council Adjudication No. 1446

The Australian Press Council has dismissed a complaint by Ken Thomas against The Gold Coast Sun related to his letter published on August 26, 2009.

The letter was one of a number of letters related to the war in Iraq published by the newspaper over several weeks.

Mr Thomas complained that his letter had been altered unfairly, resulting in loss of meaning.

The council found no evidence of a breach of its principles.

Newspapers have reasonable discretion in modifying language or reducing the wordcount of letters provided the published letter does not distort the writer's view.

In this case, the editing by the newspaper did not substantively alter the main thrust of the original letter or its meaning.
Regardless of whether you are endeavouring to promote an issue or complaining about something that has appeared in Murdoch's publications - don't engage with them, don't comment on their blogs, and don't write to them - it allows them to control the issue and prolongs their stranglehold on community discourse.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When the bully comes begging, tell the bully to fuck off

We've asked the Queensland Conservation Council/Walk Against Warming organisers why News Ltd. is a sponsor of this year's event:


I have previously supported the Walk Against Warming and would like to support this week's Walk Against Warming, however I question the fact that News Ltd. are one of the sponsors of the event.

I specifically recall the Brisbane 2007 walk and Andrew Bolt's post about it ridiculing the event and dishonestly suggesting that far fewer people attended than really did.

As you must be aware, News Ltd's Andrew Bolt is one of Australia's loudest, and most disingenuous, critics of the science of AGW. News Ltd.'s Piers Ackerman and Tim Blair (and many other local News Ltd. staff) also push the fossil fuel industry's line against taking any real action to limit industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

It is extremely hard to avoid the conclusion that the Walk Against Warming has been co-opted by News Ltd.'s PR division to improve their credibility, push other agendas and ensure that they have greater control and ownership of the climate issue.

What is your justification for allowing News Ltd. to play a part in this year's walk?

I will be posting this question and your answer on www.stopmurdoch.blogspot.com


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tony Abbott: "I am not frightened about an election on this issue"

Derrr! He has Murdoch's tick of approval to take the conservative side of politics in Australia way, way off into the crazy authoritarian backward 'right'.

Earlier this month we received a response from the ABC to our many queries about the tediously frequent appearance on our ABC of Murdoch staff (after a tortured game of cat and mouse). We must have had the same effect as a nit on a rhino, because last week we heard a Fairfax voice being interviewed about something.

Of course, that is totally missing the point. There is no reason for ANY properties of the commercial media to turn up on the ABC. We have all manner of ABC journalists and commentators who could comment on any of the topics covered by Trevor Jackson's Murdoch guests on 91.7 ABC Coast FM.

Today [1/12/09] it was Murdoch's Malcolm Farr who graced us with his fatuous ponderings on Tony Abbott. If we cared what Farr and the rest of the Murdoch cadre had to say about anything, which very few people actually do, we could read their rubbish in print or online. This is just more evidence that there has been a concerted effort by the ABC and Murdoch's minions to raise News Ltd's deservedly lacking credibility by getting them time on the ABC.

Well fuck that!

We've done our bit, we've showed you how to do your bit, we've provided the links for complaints about this crap to the ABC. If you can't be arsed to resist or complain this encroachment of Murdoch's toxicity into the public broadcaster then maybe we should start charging you to visit this site.

BTW. Why are they still debating the ETS legislation in the senate?