Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Is 'WSJ' heading for rack and runes?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Just in time for Mr Murdoch's formal completion of his Wall Street Journal takeover, I am pleased to announce a new occasional feature called Rupert Reads The Runes. The ownership of the world's premier financial title is a great thing, of course, and if some in the States seem uncertain about Mr Murdoch's promise not to interfere with the WSJ's editorial content ... well, the persecution of an envious, spiteful liberal elite is something he learnt to live with long ago.

People here once doubted his guarantees of The Times' editorial independence, but they soon looked pretty foolish (when Harold Evans later challenged him about these assurances, Mr Murdoch replied "they are not worth the paper they're written on"). Anyway, if Mr M did offer sporadic advice about the fiscal issues of the day, wouldn't that be a boon given his fabled macro-economic prescience? In early 2003, he told an interviewer that his support for the Iraqi adventure rested primarily on the recherché matter of oil. "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy," he said, "would be $20 a barrel for oil ...Once [Iraq] is behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil ..." With oil poised to smash through the $100 per barrel barrier for the first time, here is a lesson for all you Murdoch naysayers on the WSJ. On those rare occasions when he feels minded to offer an editorial idea, always best to listen to the boss. Next time in Rupert Reads The Runes, we find him contemplating George Bush's place in history.

* EVEN OUT of office, meanwhile, Mr Tony Blair continues to play Waylon Smithers to Rupert's Monty Burns. Apart from his apparently imminent conversion to Catholicism (Mr Murdoch, you may recall, is already a Papal Knight), he also follows in the Murdoch footsteps by treating China as a cash cow. If the local media seemed unimpressed by last week's "stale" and "clichéd" speech in Dongguan during this "money-raking trip, the £237,000 fee for speaks for itself. The disappointment is that one-third of it went in tax. Much to be learnt yet, it appears, from the master.

IN THE Daily Mail, Leo McKinstry gets his knickers in a knot over the allegations about Kirsty Wark's TV producer husband Alan Clements, who admits asking her secretary to hack into ex-colleagues's emails for business advantage. Once a Labour councillor in Islington. Leo belongs to that exclusive club – founded by Paul Johnson, and now captained by Mad Mel Phillips – of those who, after lurching suddenly from left to far right, prosecute their new beliefs with the enchanting zeal of the religious convert. Leo's area of special interest is the dominion of the "modern establishment" whose sinister hand he sees in coverage of this story. "It will hardly surprise you to know," he wrote last Thursday, "that there hasn't been so much as a whisper about it ...in the left-wing media." In fact, The Independent covered the allegations in detail last Tuesday, as did The Guardian. Leo is a huge talent (he published a splendid book in 1996 explaining why Labour was a spent electoral force), but lets himself down with such sloppiness. First rule, Leo. Read them. Even the nasty, lefty ones.

* STILL WITH The Mail, a leading article asks: "Isn't Jacqui Smith already emerging as the least impressive in a long line of undistinguished Home Secretaries?". Admittedly Ms Smith does seem useless beyond belief. But is she really worse than David Blunkett, of whom The Mail wrote, when he resigned for the first time in December 2004: "In a Cabinet of pygmies Mr Blunkett, a fundamentally decent man, was a giant. We hope he will return to public life." And so, of course, he did. But not for long.

* ONE OF the week's broadcasting highlights came on Wednesday, when Kelvin MacKenzie graced the Today programme to discuss bullying in the workplace. He was no bully himself, he explained, because he only screamed at those capable of understanding that it was all part of the game. "It becomes bullying when the other person doesn't have the ability or the intellect to fight back," said Kelvin. All anecdotes from former Sun, TalkSport and Live! TV staff, of whatever workplace status and intellect, most welcome.

* THE DAILY MIRROR carries the most worrying Mary Ann Sieghart medical bulletin since that bee sting to her foot in the summer of 2006. Mary Ann reveals a condition that prevents her recognising faces. "It's a great source of social embarrassment," she admits. And to think she was once the most remorseless networker in the entire New Labour commentariat. Even more than over the bee sting, her courage makes me weep. Truly, she's the Jane Tomlinson of Prosopagnosis.

* AS FOR his Sun colleague Jon Gaunt, I'm upset to find him betraying that paper's family ethos. "Looks like Kate Moss was doing a Gillian Taylforth and eating a sausage on the move," writes Gaunty. "Good, she looks like she needs a bit of meat inside her." Oh dear. It's fine when you're 15 to call your widowed father's girlfriend "The Slag", (see his excellent memoir Undaunted), and even to masturbate over her undies drying on the washing line outside. But this sort of filth, at his age? With so many children (the reading age of the Sun, generally estimated at 11, drops to nine-and-a-quarter the day his column appears) serving as foot soldiers in his loyal army of readers? Honestly Gaunty.

Comments