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Will Lachlan Murdoch Bring a New Era to Fox News or the Same Hell?

Will Lachlan Murdoch Bring a New Era to Fox News or the Same Hell?

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Media powerhouse Janice Min weighs in on the Australian dynasty's succession plans.

The term “media mogul” has been used a lot this week to describe Rupert Murdoch, who after almost 70 years in the media business announced this week that he was pulling back from helming the Fox Corporation. However, the term that best describes Murdoch, as he grew from running one newspaper to a conglomerate, is “money maker.”

Yes, Murdoch had a “nose for news” to a degree, but mainly he had “nose for niche," meaning that Murdoch carved out two audiences in the media, tabloid and conservatism, exploited them, and made cash cows out of them.

Having worked with the media, and now in the media, for over 35 years, I was often asked about Murdoch, mainly by Democrats who questioned why he was, paraphrasing here, “ruining America by spreading lies.” That’s where I stopped the questioner. Yes, clearly Fox, along with other factors, is responsible for the ripped-in-half divisiveness that corrodes American politics, but Murdoch was only being opportunistic by seizing an audience that until Fox had no voice.

On a very rudimentary level, here’s how Murdoch’s business acumen made him a media mogul.

Americans used to get their news neat and tidy. You had morning and evening newspapers, and the evening news — primary and consistent ways where news was delivered. Granted, some newspapers and local television stations may have veered slightly to the right or left, but predominantly news had a singular voice.

Way before Donald Trump came along and labeled the media “biased” and “liberal,” there was a sense, rightly or wrongly, among the general public that the media leaned liberal. This started to percolate somewhat during Watergate, when media like The Washington Post and CBS News went heavy and hard after President Nixon. While the moment ranks as one of the media’s finest hours, it was also a turning point for some who felt the media was “out to get Nixon.”

When CNN burst on the scene in the summer of 1980, it ushered in a whole way of getting news. For example, consumers of news didn’t have to wait until 6:30 every night for Walter Cronkite, who famously anchored the popular CBS Evening News. They could get news 24/7. CNN dominated for almost two decades, and as CNN grew in coverage and prestige, it also inevitably got tagged as “liberal” by conservatives.

In 1996, conservatives finally got their wish when Fox News premiered. It took a few years to catch on, but as George W. Bush later came to power and stayed there for eight years, Fox, with its conservative slant, had an advantage with a conservative administration. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rupert Murdoch had the pockets and the foresight to see the need for an all-news, all-conservative network — and it paid off. My argument is that 30 years ago, there could have easily been another smart business person to come along and beat Murdoch to the punch. Maybe even someone like George Soros. Why not? There was a consumer niche that was going untapped, and when a demographic like that is recognized, it’s time for a brand — or a smart investor — to jump in and cash in.

My theory has always been that Rupert Murdoch didn’t give a hoot about Fox News or Fox viewers, so long as the talent kept titillating and the audience kept watching. The latter was a barometer of success that translated to plus or minus dollars and made investors and stockholders either happy or sad — and those two groups were the only audience Murdoch really cared about.

Now that's not to say that Murdoch isn't a conservative. Clearly, he is, although we can't be 100 percent sure how deep that conservatism runs; however, toward the end, it became a wave that washed over Murdoch and almost drowned him.

Did he slip up toward the end by getting caught in the Dominion and Tucker Carlson imbroglios? Yes. However, by that point, the bottom line and his audience, investors, and stockholders were all teetering, so as the chief he had no choice but to try to right the ship, and his attempts to do so, at least for the moment, took the ship off course.

At 92, perhaps it was time to hand the reins over to son Lachlan, who, if rumors are true, is a chip off the old block and a staunch conservative with one wrinkle the works to our advantage. The son and his wife, Sarah, have been supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. Most recently, in February of this year, they donated $1 million to help fund the queer museum in Sydney, their hometown. Is the son perhaps more tolerant than the father? Will Lachlan's ascendancy modernize Fox Corporation? Will the father be outshone by his son? Or will the son continue to adhere to his father's legacy?

What will Rupert's legacy be? And more importantly, what will happen to Fox Corporation now that Lachlan takes charge? For some context I reached out to a modern-day media powerhouse, Janice Min, editor in chief of The Ankler. Previously, Min worked for People magazine and InStyle,was editor in chief at Us Weekly from 2002 to 2009, and as a media executive, revamped entertainment industry publications The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.

Referring to the above, I asked Min if she thought Fox's recent legal troubles were part of the reason Murdoch decided to step away from Fox. “Murdoch had a really humiliating deposition as part of the Dominion trial,” Min pointed out. “And I have to imagine, at 92, it was in no one’s best interest to have a repeat of that with the Smartmatic voting machine trial coming up.”

I asked Min if she thought Lachlan Murdoch would follow his father’s “nose for business” and key in on the money, stock price, and satisfying investors, or if she expected him to do anything dramatically different than his father.

“One of the reasons Lachlan became the chosen one in the family is because he most mirrors his father in terms of political beliefs, but also in the care and protection he feels towards him," Min told me. "I have to imagine that both now and in 10 years, Lachlan will always be thinking, What would dad do? when faced with hard decisions. It would be crazy not to — he has been at the knee of one of the most masterful businesspeople of our times, whether you liked him or not.”

I told Min that I couldn’t agree more with that last statement, and that many top business leaders probably had the same opinion. What did Min think is the opinion of most media people about Lachlan? “Most people know about Lachlan through what they read. Those who worked with him at the New York Post back when he was there were very fond of him. It’s hard to separate Lachlan out of the noise of Fox News, his father, and the family. Clearer opinions will be formed as he will be out there on his own now as a leader.”

Finally, and perhaps the most important question at the moment for Lachlan, and for political junkies, did Min think Lachlan will have any input or direction about how Fox News covers the 2024 presidential election? “You could argue that the person who holds the keys to Fox News holds the keys to the next election," said Min. "There has never been any church and state between Fox News and the Murdochs. I don’t know why we would expect any differently this time around."

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.