When Rupert Murdoch Was My Boss

Now that Rupert Murdoch himself is the news, I add to his legend what it was like when he owned the Voice. First, a necessary prelude: The last time I saw him was after he had sold the newspaper. It was at a book party at Fox News in New York for Judge Andrew Napolitano, whose beat is to fiercely protect the Constitution—including denouncing Bush-Cheney and Obama.

Having often quoted Napolitano, I was there at Fox that day. Seeing Murdoch, I went to where he was seated. Identifying myself as from the Voice, I gave him my clearly unwelcome congratulations: "You are the most effective labor organizer I’ve ever known about."

Murdoch knew what I was talking about. Lowering his head a bit, he sighed, "The Village Voice, the bane of my existence." He had no idea, of course, that years hence, his News of the World, Britain's long most powerful and profitable newspaper, would be a worse thorn in his side.

My tribute to him was about what happened soon after he bought the Voice, among his other U.S. properties at the time. For quite a while, other staffers and I had been trying to bring a union into this newspaper—and we failed. The young staff had been strongly against the war in Vietnam, as had I. But organized labor, the AFL-CIO, stoutly supported our involvement. Accordingly, most Voice employees were anti-union.

Being anti-union was also Murdoch's reputation. In 1986, after beginning to produce his papers here and elsewhere by using advanced electronics, he cut lots of jobs. And in Wapping, England, he fired many protesting workers who had gone on strike, fueling violent street battles with agents of management.

This bitterly anti-union side of his history was circulated at the Voice and quickly, employees from nearly all divisions filed downtown to District 65 on Astor Place—a catch-all local spanning workers at various shops. It was later absorbed by the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), the present representative of Voice workers.

I expect what Murdoch meant when he told me the Voice was the bane of his existence had to do with the swift unionization of this shop when it was suddenly taken over by this strikebreaker from England.

But also, the Voice then had a reputation as a fractious place—reporters disputed with management and with one another. This roiling place was to be run by a hands-on iconic figure who was on his way to being listed three times in "Time 100," the magazine's choices among the most influential people in the world. He'd bought a bee's nest.

I remember when, having bought the New York Post, Murdoch had an office there. Covering a sharp disagreement between some Post staffers and Murdoch, I went there to interview him for a Voice story. He was not forthcoming, and finally as I started to leave his office, Murdoch loudly instructed me: "And you can’t criticize me!"

Of course, we did. More than once. We survived.

As of this writing, Murdoch’s aura as a superconfident, savvy empire builder—including in this country—is disintegrating. While he was here, I found out that, to keep right on top and inside his properties around the world, he'd stay in touch with them, even at odd hours here. He was managing from afar.

With all that’s coming out now—with more to come—consider how long News of the World executives were deeply and intricately involved with the hacking and bribery throughout that news-manipulating empire. I find it impossible to believe that commander-in-chief Murdoch didn’t know precisely what was going on—despite his testimony to the contrary before Parliament.

So I've not been surprised to hear reports that independent members among those on the board of News Corp. "are beginning to discuss whether Rupert Murdoch can stay on as the CEO of the company he founded and has almost completely dominated" (Huffington Post, July 18). Conceivably, there could be a partial breakup of his imposing macrocosm. Rupert may remain in control of sections—the Fox cable networks, for one possibility.

However unlikely, should he ever think of taking over, among other additional acquisitions, Village Voice Media, I remind him that I'm still here and out of step, like my favorite comic strip as a child, Popeye the Sailor Man. "I am what I am."

In the vast coverage of his still mounting tribulations, I was particularly impressed by "Murdoch’s Political Money Trail" (Laura Colarusso, The Daily Beast, July 15): ". . . . In 2010, News Corp. used some of its budget to urge Congressional Republicans to keep the federal government from intervening with the Cablevision franchise in New York over its attempt to double the fees charged to broadcast Murdoch's News Corp. programming, which led to a temporary blackout."

And dig this about "Fair and Balanced" multidimensional news emperor Rupert Murdoch: "The vast majority of Murdoch's money. . . . goes to Republican candidates and causes. In 2010, as the GOP was trying to retake the House, Senate, and several state houses, News Corp. donated an eye-popping $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce."

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7 comments
Jack Daniels
Jack Daniels

Misleading Title. This is a story about Rupert Murdoch in general. The only thing it says about his time owning the Voice is that shortly after his purchase the staff unionized. That's it. A story about how Murdoch managed the Voice would have been interesting. Hopefully somebody will write it.

Fakowitribe
Fakowitribe

I met Nat Hentoff many years ago, he was very pleasant and interesting..He's on top of all the crazy things government does. That's as in Democrat or Republican.. "The Lynx" and "Winkey"

Jo56
Jo56

If only the FBI would investigate MSNBC, NBC, CBS, and ABC. How much money was given to the Democrats including that known Communist, Obama? Who cares about Murdock? News of the World was only part of the Fleet Street culture. Piers Morgan has admitted he did as much. Where is all the horror and dismay of his behavior? Really the hypocrisy is astounding in this article and in these comments.

Reggie213
Reggie213

The Hypocrisy is not as bad as your comment.

Clip Job Rules
Clip Job Rules

Rolling Stone did a really lengthy piece about a month or two ago saying that everything at Fox News is about Roger Alias's agenda not Murdoch's.

Cas_eindhoven
Cas_eindhoven

Wait, Nat Hentoff is still with the Voice???

Glad to see it, but what happened???

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

He writes a column for us once a month, and has for the last year and a half.

 
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