REVIEW: The Sun King

Despite the fact he is one of the most infamous figures in the media industry, Rupert Murdoch is still something of a mysterious figure. What do we know of the man outside of his work? Who is he really, and what makes him tick?

These are, arguably, not the most pressing of questions but nonetheless, a new book edited by George Beahm strives to present something of a ‘wholer’ picture of Murdoch. He’s so much more than just a media mogul – who knew? – and the book covers his thoughts on everything ranging from his childhood in Australia to his views on the future of books as well as musings about his romance with wife Wendy.

If you cast aside all that you think you know about Murdoch for just half an hour, you’ll find Murdoch to be an interesting and – dare I say it – actually quite amusing man. However, as Beahm is also keen to emphasise via his quote selections, Murdoch is a man of weaknesses, too; in short, he’s human (albeit one with a terrifyingly large hold over Western media). It’s not the weightiest of books but the scope of topics covered makes it perfect for dipping in and out of. It also includes a handy timeline of Murdoch’s life so far at the back, including details of the News International hacking scandal.

Anyway, I deviate – as it’s a book of quotes, there’s not really much to critique. Instead, I thought I’d pick five of my favourite excerpts from throughout. If you’re a budding journalist or just have a general interest in media, it makes for a fascinating read.

On defending ideas in a free society

“In a free society, you do not succeed just by having the right ideas. You succeed by having the confidence to defend those ideas when they are under assault – and to see them through when the experts are counselling compromise.”

On great journalism

“What happens to print journalism in an age where consumers are increasingly being offered on-demand, interactive, news, entertainment, sports and classifieds via broadband on their computer screens, TV screens, mobile phones and handsets? The answer is that great journalism will always attract readers. The words, pictures and graphics that are the stuff of journalism have to be brilliantly packaged; they must feed the mind and move the heart. And, crucially, newspapers must give readers a choice of accessing their journalism in the pages of the paper or on websites such as Times Online or – and this is important – on any platform that appeals to them, mobile phones, hand-held devices, iPads, whatever. As I have said, newspapers may become news-sites.”

On printer’s ink in his blood

“My whole life has been with newspapers and so has my father’s. You could say my destiny is to be in love with newspapers.”

On credibility with his newspaper’s readership

“The important point was that we had broken our trust with our readers.”

On Steve Jobs and the iPad

“I think this is the end of the laptop… Here we have the man who invented the personal computer, then the laptop. He’s now destroying them. That is an amazing life.”

The Sun King, edited by George Beahm (paperback, Hardie Grant Books). RRP £7.99.

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