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The Brute Force of Capitalism vs. Quality Journalism

Well roll out the Red Carpet and give David Carr an Oscar for making the right call on Rupert Murdoch, Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. Early in May in his New York Times column he wrote:

First, the deal will be made at some point, regardless of what the Bancroft family said last week. Brute-force capital, like flood waters, always finds a way to break through.

Carr also wrote:

Despite his allaying words to the contrary, Mr. Murdoch would operate The Journal, including its editorial operations, as he sees fit. As Mr. Murdoch himself has said throughout his relentlessly acquisitive career, he buys things to run things.

There is business synergy in the deal — between the News Corporation’s proposed Fox Business cable TV channel and The Journal, for example. But far more important is Mr. Murdoch’s own version of synergy, which puts business, media and government all in a single vertical. Owning The Journal would give him a powerful leverage in all three.

So now indeed we most likely will have the Murdoch family and the Thomson family controlling the bulk of the world’s financial news. Not exactly a stellar day for journalism and democracy, but a hell of a day for the brute-force of capital.

Now those of who care about the quality of journalism and unfettered reporting on the world’s financial markets can either stand by or work hard to use disruptive technologies to produce, in Clayton M. Christensen’s terms, a faster, cheaper, smaller, more convenient form of journalism. Both the Thomsons and the Murdochs are going to be vulnerable, with debt and big slow-to-move organizations. It’s time for the rest of us to kick the journalism chair out from under them before they fashion it to meet their own ideologies which are rooted in using capital to get more power to get more capital and so forth.

The odds, of course, of the Davids taking on the Goliaths are long, the ideal Utopian, but the alternative is to do nothing and allow the boot of brute-force capital crush the things we hold dear.

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