After yesterday's slapdash jam-job, the Times redeems itself this morning with a lengthy piece on Rupert Murdoch's ties to China. There's not a lot that comes as news to those who (for, say, work reasons) obsessively read every news story about the News Corp. mogul, but for the casual observer it's a fairly good summary. Let us break it down for you.
- Murdoch's Chinese-born wife Wendi Deng has facilitated his connections in the country. Her involvement with News Corp.'s Chinese holdings raises questions "about how the family-controlled News Corporation will be run after Mr. Murdoch, 76, retires or dies." (Cyborgs don't die!) Murdoch met her on a visit to Shanghai in 1997; soon thereafter Murdoch left his second wife and married her.
- Murdoch's television channels provide more foreign programming to the country than any other entity, probably because Murdoch will bow and scrape to whatever directives the government orders concerning content. Journal reporters worry that this will affect their ability to accurately cover China (the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for a story about Falun Gong).
- After a 1993 speech about the ability of technology to undermine totalitarian regimes, the government froze him out for four years. His fortunes only recovered when he sucked up to the country's former leader Deng Xiopeng.
- Relations may have cooled slightly as Murdoch's patron, former President Jiang Xemin, has lost influence to current president Hu Jintao.
- My Space China lets you rat out anyone who provides "inappropriate information."
- The Murdochs are renovating their "traditional courtyard-style house in Beijing's exclusive Beichizi district, a block from the Forbidden City."
Perhaps more interesting is the quote from News Corp., which refused to participate in the article:
News Corp. has consistently cooperated with The New York Times in its coverage of the company. However, the agenda for this unprecedented series is so blatantly designed to further the Times's commercial self interests — by undermining a direct competitor poised to become an even more formidable competitor — that it would be reckless of us to participate in their malicious assault. Ironically, The Times, by using its news pages to advance its own corporate business agenda, is doing the precise thing they accuse us of doing without any evidence.Which again raises the question about what the Times' motive is here. Based on yesterday's sorry spectacle we'd be inclined to suspect that it is indeed an attempt to damage Murdoch's prospects of taking over the Wall Street Journal. But today's article is legitimate coverage of a legitimate story, delivered professionally and offering the kind of analysis and information newspapers are supposed to provide. (We would have liked more sexy Wendi stuff, but you can't have everything.) So it's hard to tell. Maybe they're advancing their agenda while reporting the news. Kind of meta, huh?