He Isn't Dead, Yet

The first, most striking thing about the news cycle surrounding Rupert Murdoch's descent from the throne is how much of it reads like an obit.

The truth, as the Monty Python team famously quipped in "The Holy Grail," is, he's not dead yet. And if his own statements about still being in vital health are true, Rupert Murdoch will still be playing a influential role pulling strings and distorting truth as long as he has a breath, albeit a little more behind-the-scenes.

The funny thing is I've never met Murdoch personally, even though he has occupied and influenced much of my career as a media industry journalist. In fact, I owe much of it directly to Murdoch.

My first job covering media was as an intern for the Advertising News of New York, which was soon to become Adweek, and my first boss is the same one I have today, Ken Fadner.



Ken and his partners Jack Thomas and Pen Tudor bought ANNY and its sister publications in Chicago (SAM) and Los Angeles (MAC), after Murdoch acquired New York Magazine Corp., where Ken and I think Jack, but not Pen worked, and they were part of Murdoch's shakeout, along with legendary editor Clay Felker.

Over the course of the summer I interned there, I watched as they transformed ANNY, SAM and MAC into Adweek, and ultimately ended up working for them full-time and reporting to Clay. So that's where I cut my teeth.

And much of my coverage over the years focused on how Murdoch was leveraging his media assets -- ultimately including The New York Post, the Metromedia TV stations, which he rebooted as the Fox station group, then the Fox network, and ultimately Fox News Channel, too.

Ironically, I also played a role in helping to launch -- or at least market -- Fox News Channel, when I reported on a series of new research from ad agency Young & Rubicam assessing the value of media brands, including the fact that Fox was the most powerful brand in news.

Roger Ailes had not yet launched the Fox News Channel for Murdoch, but already was planning it, and he used that line "The Most Powerful Name in News," sourcing my coverage to get it off the ground.

So I guess you have me to thank for that.

The second most striking thing about the coverage of Rupert Murdoch's succession to son Lachlan, is how much of it either references a work of fiction -- HBO's "Succession" series -- explicitly, or appropriates it implicitly.

I actually think that's appropriate given how much the Murdochs have blurred the line of real-world reality into fictional narratives -- all under the premise that what they were disseminating was "news."

While they didn't create the audience market demanding an alternate, grievance-based alternative to "mainstream" media coverage (thank you, Newt Gingrich), they certainly leaned in and exploited it in a way I think even the late Roger Ailes would have been shocked to see had he been around to see it fully manifest.

It's hard to say what the long-term legacy of Rupert Murdoch will ultimately be, but in the short term, he's still alive and kicking, and biting every dog that gets in his way.

I'll save the rest of this commentary for the obit I will ultimately write about him whenever that becomes part of the news cycle.

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