The best argument for corporate ownership of media can be made in two words: Rupert Murdoch. His News Corp is a corporation only in the sense that the Nazis were a National Socialist Party, both the creatures of one iron-willed man.
Now that Murdoch is attempting to anschluss Dow Jones, parent of the Wall Street Journal, it’s time for another look at the question of benevolent family ownership vs. big, bad conglomerates.
The sense of a public trust by the Sulzbergers in New York, the Grahams in Washington and others elsewhere has certainly contributed to good journalism. But Murdoch is the flip side of that truism. His idea of ownership is to impose bad taste and even worse politics on Fox News, the New York Post and his other properties.
From my lifetime of working in journalism, one conclusion emerges: It all depends on the nature of the family or the corporation but, if there is a choice, it’s better to work for people who only want profit rather than for opinionated people seeking power and influence.
At least the desire for money is mediated by what the public will accept. In this climate, reporters and editors can buy relative freedom with their talent to draw readers or viewers. In Murdoch's empire, there is seldom such an option.
The best evidence is that there are few corporations out there still trying to sell us George Bush, but Murdoch's media are.