The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff

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The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Murdoch gave unprecedented access to Michael Wolff to enable him to write this book, but asked for no veto. It's interesting, readable and informative, but probably not the whole truth. Cautiously recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 456 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099523529

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There can be few people who are unaware of the name of Rupert Murdoch. Over four decades he's built News International into a seventy billion dollar corporation from its original Australian base. His position in the UK media is such that he's courted by politicians and has what many believe to be an excessive amount of power for someone who is not elected and is not even a UK citizen. He's now expanding into Southeast Asia and in his eightieth year it's still difficult to imagine when – or where – he will stop.

It's a strange beast, this book. In strictness it probably falls into the 'authorised biography' category given the access provided to Michael Wolff by Murdoch and by extension to his family and employees. But – and it's a very big but in the world of authorised biographies – Murdoch said that they should say what they liked and he asked for no veto, or even sight of the manuscript prior to publication. Even after reading the book I'm not certain whether this came from his own certainty about what people would say of him or disbelief that they could say anything against him.

For what comes over is that few people who know Murdoch are immune to him. The atmosphere at News Corp. seems to be not far from fear of the man. What Rupert wants, Rupert will get and there's little in the way of informed debate even about some of his more outlandish ideas. Much of the book is framed around his acquisition of Dow Jones. Despite paying a ridiculous price and investing an unreasonable amount of time there seemed to be little benefit other than the fact that Rupert was determined to have it – and there was little or no attempt to dissuade him.

Murdoch has the family instinct as a journalist. If he needs the skills he still has them, but his real skill is in business. He's a deal maker, a networker par excellence and ruthless when it comes to getting what he wants. Whether he will do as well in the age of the internet must be in doubt – he doesn't 'get' it and seems to have no inclination to go down that road. His people skills are poor – occasionally forgetting how many children he has and misjudging what they are likely to say about him. He might love them, but he fails to understand them.

The book is very readable; it's the story of a man and of our times. I normally like history or biography to follow a chronological line but I found Wolff's use of the Dow Jones acquisition as a frame worked well. The book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Murdoch and his inner circle and whilst I suspect that there is much that we still don't know about the man, I felt that I knew more of him when I finished the book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more of the newspaper world you might like to try The Remarkable Lives of Bill Deedes by Stephen Robinson.

Buy The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff at Amazon.com.


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