Thursday, May 29, 2008

Crystal Balls

So, as we all know by now, Rupert Murdoch came within inches of an outright endorsement of Barack Obama yesterday at the All Things Digital conference.

Murdoch, the media tycoon, owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, among others, and poster boy for media consolidation, expresses concern about his "old friend," John McCain's flagrant lack of expertise in economics. How unfortunate for Sen. McCain that his old pal Rupey no longer wants to buy him an election.

The only difference between the pundit-in-chief, George W. Bush, who made some election prognostications of his own, a few months ago, and Rupert Murdoch is that the crystal balls Murdoch owns are Lenox crystal. But, is it the role of the media to just lay there when they're getting screwed?

One important element that can't be overemphasized, while it may not be as sexy or as headline grabbing as the Fox chief backing Barack Obama, is Murdoch's nonchalant acknowledgment that he might even go so far as to try and influence the New York Post's election coverage to lean towards Obama.

It doesn't matter who, or what, the chief executive officer of a newspaper, or network, endorses---it is egregious, and flat out unacceptable for Mr. Murdoch to tilt the direction of his editorial board in any presidential candidate's favor---whether it be John McCain or Barack Obama. The arrogance of his admission is beyond belief. The only thing more incredible is the lack of media coverage of this outright confession to use our "free press" to mitigate the outcome of an election.

It would be in Senator Obama's best interest to distance himself, as fast as possible, from this media shark's grip. Obama must join those of us who care about the First Amendment autonomy of the press, and the media, in expressing outrage at the mere suggestion that the publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper would openly admit to considering strongarming his editors and writers by micromanaging content of news stories. This is what we feared most about Murdoch. Now that we have the smoking gun, even the media appears loathe to use it.

While Obama would appear to be a more enlightened candidate than McCain, no newspaper publisher has the right to peddle his own personal influence without being accused of propagandizing.

After all, there is little difference between tweaking the evidence in the lead-up to war, editing reports by "military analysts" about the progress in Iraq, and buying a newspaper as a way to control the outcome of an election. Murdoch's endorsement, and admission that he is willing to throw his weight behind any candidate for president of the United States must be recognized for what it is--an insult to what the framers had in mind by the phrase "free press."