21 August 2011

The New York Post

Someone recently asked me -- not for any reason worth mentioning here -- about the politics of the New York Post.  This someone was apparently under the impression I live closer to NYC than I do, or have some reason to follow its tabloids in particular.

I made to her the following observations:

I won't claim to know anything about the political complexion of the Post either. Maybe some New Yorker will (a) admit to reading it with some regularity and (b) clue us both in.

But since you brought it up ... further thoughts.

I do know that it is part of the Murdochian empire. News Corp. bought it in 1976, [the Post created the immortal headline "Headless Body in Topless Bar" in 1983], News Corp. sold it in 1988, acquired it again in 1993 (more on that in a sec), and has owned it since. I personally would not conclude that this makes the Post a "conservative" paper. After all, I don't believe Murdoch is ideologically driven. I think he is profit driven. (Which, I assure you, I also think of as a good trait.)

Fox News is, IMHO, rightward slanted, and in fact they more-or-less admit this, though they generally say that they are justifiably so given the contrary slant of their competitors. They see themselves more as a balancing factor than as in themselves balanced -- two different notions. Again -- no quarrel from me. I don't beleive in "balance" or in "objectivity" either except as widespread fictions. There is true, there is false. Within the realm of the truthful, all truth-telling is selective. Only God knows truth without partiality.

I am reminded of what a little girl wrote to the editor of another NY newspaper in the late 19th century. "Papa says, if you see it in the Sun it's so." Yes, Virginia, there is truth. There is that which simply "is so" as your father sensibly defines truth. But neither the Sun nor any other paper ever printed failed to select particular truths as more worthy of print than others for particular reasons. As indeed, their decision to put your letter on the front page one fateful day rather illustrates. Is there some sense in which that was an objective news-value-driven decision?

But I'll return to the 21st century now ... if I am right about Murdoch, we can't infer anything about the Post, the WSJ, etc., from Fox. All we know is that putting Roger Ailes in charge and letting him run Fox News has made Murdoch a lot of money, so Murdoch has left that goose alone to lay its golden eggs the way the goose thinks best. That doesn't imply any ideological passion in the head office of News Corp at all, and my guess is that the Post probably is largely autonomous in day-to-day terms too.

There is an interesting bit of history. As I mentioned, the first News Corp. era for the Post was 1976 - 1988. When they were putting together Fox News network, they wanted NYC's WNYW, but under cross-ownership rules then in place they couldn't have both WNYW and the Post. So they opted for the former, and sold the Post to Peter Kalikow.

Kalikow was wealthy from real estate wheelings and dealings, but knew zip abut the news business, and for several years the Post went steadily downhill. News Corp bought it again in 1993 -- at that time it was considered a rescue, so the cross-ownership rules were waived. Hmmm. Murdoch was given an either/or choice and ended up with both. A conspiracy theorist could go to town on that.


Bottom line, If you see it in Pragmatism Refreshed -- it's so. Otherwise. you're taking your chances.


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