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Dead Tree Alert: The Humbling of Murdoch; Also, On the Price of Dead Trees

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My column in the print edition of TIME this week is about this week’s travails of News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch, and how his empire has been rattled by the very forces with which he built it: tabloid gossip, political access and the sharp-elbowed pursuit of both. It includes a disclosure statement so long I decided to make it the lede of the article:

Before I write on the British phone-hacking case convulsing Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a bit of disclosure is in order. I work for TIME magazine, which is owned by Time Warner, whose cable channels, including HBO and CNN, compete with News Corp.’s, including FX and Fox News; whose 50%-owned broadcast network, the CW, competes with News Corp.’s Fox; whose film and TV studios (congrats, Harry Potter, on some record-breaking box office!) compete with News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox; and whose print outlets — like this one — compete for scoops and influence with News Corp.’s, like the Wall Street Journal

You can read the rest here. However, you can no longer read the rest for free. About that…

With this issue, TIME is introducing a digital paywall for the content of the print magazine. (Or re-introducing it, as we’ve tried some versions of this in the past.) You can read more about the new subscription deal here, but in a nutshell: If you already subscribe to TIME, you can read all electronic versions free. If not, for $30 a year, you can get the magazine, in print, online and iPad versions. You can also get the same for $2.99 a month, or a one-week digital-only pass for $4.99. (Sic. Don’t ask. I didn’t set the prices.)

Either way, this only affects the subscriber-only content in the print magazine. This blog is still accessible for its fair market value of free. The articles at Time.com that are written for the website–that is, most of them–are free too.

This concludes my moonlighting as circulation manager for TIME magazine.

Back to the column. That lede is a hyperbolic way of acknowledging that most everyone covering News Corp. is in some way reporting or opining (arguably self-servingly, even if about a very legitimate scandal) on the trouble of a competitor—except, of course, for those who report for News Corp. I and others have pointed out how News Corp.’s properties have covered the scandal—often by downplaying it or by defending their boss, sometimes to the point of incredulity. (This editorial cartoon from Murdoch’s Times of London, using famine victims in Somalia to deplore coverage of phone-hacking, is especially vile.)

That said, as a writer I can’t help but sympathize with many of the rank-and-file journos of Murdoch’s empire. Pat Kiernan of New York 1 cable news said it best in a column at The Daily Beast: when an elderly media billionaire is dragged before Parliament, where he gets a pie thrown in his face by a protester who in turn is clobbered in a flying leap by his hot young wife and the New York Post doesn’t write one of its famous rude Page One headlines about it—something is wrong with the world.