New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller has a review of legendary magazine tycoon Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life, in this Sunday's book review section. The Times posted it online Friday under the heading "The Editor in Chief."
Keller took advantage of the book review acreage to take an arbitary shot at present-day media mogul (and soon to be a direct-competitor as the Wall Street Journal expands its Manhattan coverage) Rupert Murdoch, at the end of his review of historian Alan Brinkley's biography of Luce.
Keller found Brinkley's book helpful in fleshing out the oft-caricatured Luce, "restoring missing dimensions to figures who have been flattened into caricature." He also approved of revelations showing Luce was not as conservative as his reputation would imply:
Nor was Luce all that conservative. He supported the growth of government power, including the welfare state. He championed civil rights for minorities and was less chauvinistic than his peers on the subject of women's freedom. He favored trade unions. Though zealously anti-Communist, he was scornful of Joseph McCarthy's excesses.
By the time of his death, in 1967, that consensus had been torn asunder, and today there is no vehicle, no voice with the coherent power of Luce's magazines in their heyday. The last of his breed of media tycoon is a 79-year-old Australian billionaire whose impact has been more corrosive than cohesive.
That would be Rupert Murdoch, publisher of the New York Post and creator of Fox News and other conservative media outlets. For the record, Murdoch is a U.S. citizen, having become one in 1985 to satisfy rules proclaiming only American citizens could own U.S. television stations.
Keller has made a habit out of taking arbitrary cracks at Fox figures. In a "Talk to the Newsroom" Q&A in January 2009 hosted on nytimes.com, Keller cracked:
Lunch at the Four Seasons is always a high point. Today it's my weekly tête-à-tête with Bill O'Reilly. He's really not the Neanderthal blowhard he plays on TV. He's totally in on the joke.
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