The Fox and the Wolff

By DANIEL MCCARTHY  |  December 18, 2008

"He was making them speak to me, so therefore I suppose they saw me as connected to him," he says. "I'm not really sure what the actual dynamic was, but it certainly wasn't, 'Oh, this person is writing a book about our father and our family, so perhaps we should a) get our thoughts together, b) provide a context here, or c) not be such an open nerve.' "

That open nerve distinguishes this telling of Murdoch's Homeric tale more so than previous efforts, as it aided in painting a clear portrait from each of the children what they wanted their father to understand about themselves and their feelings about him. "Remember," says Wolff, "they're more interested in him than anyone else is." Ultimately, their openness would allow for a more human picture of Murdoch, in contrast with the caricature of the gleeful baron looming high in the media sky, controlling all with an evil cackle.

That's not to say that Wolff is now ready to join the ranks of Murdoch's kingdom. Anybody who cares about the media has his/her problem with Murdoch, after all, and much of the vilification of him is warranted. But Wolff confirms Murdoch's cover-flap tag as "the most cynical and brilliant newsman who has ever lived" through his portrayal of a fiercely loyal and often ruthless business and family man.

As Wolff has written before, Murdoch has the slithering ability to be the one news CEO who's also a practitioner at heart — ultimately suggesting he's perhaps the last larger-than-life icon the newspaper world will have as it approaches the end of its natural life.

Daniel McCarthy can be reached at daniel.mccarthy@gmail.com.

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