Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's shame

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Former senior News Ltd executive Rodney E. Lever says the funeral of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch has highlighted the dysfunctional nature of Rupert Murdoch’s family.


The recent death of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch has brought back many memories of my lifetime in the Australian newspaper industry, and among them were the occasions when I spent time in her company.

I was never very close to the Murdoch family, but Dame Elisabeth had that rare quality of making one feel important and interesting and very welcome. On one occasion, my wife and I spent a day with her touring the South Australian vineyards and recalling that her godfather had been one of the pioneers of the Barossa region.

It was therefore sad to watch the memorial service, not so much because her death at 103 was not unexpected but to see on the TV the way the Murdoch family has split apart. Rupert sat in the front seat with his wife Wendi and there was a scattering of older family members. But his children were nowhere to be seen, except when the crowd made its way out of the cathedral and went their separate ways.

That’s when it became apparent that recent reports of the feuding and family dysfunction among Rupert’s children seems quite accurate. It has been the subject of recent articles in the New Yorker magazine and the Sunday edition of The New York Times, which the other day devoted a whole section of its magazine pages to an examination of Rupert’s activities in the UK and the US.

Dame Elisabeth not only disapproved, but expressed shame at the methods her only son had employed in making himself an international pariah. She would have been much happier if he had stayed in Australia and run the family business here.

But Rupert’s ambition had become an obsession to prove that he was better than his father. The real tragedy of Rupert is that he could never be bothered with actually learning to be a real journalist. His ability to write anything more significant than his ridiculous Twitter contributions has made him an international joke.

Rupert was never a reporter of the news, he was an inventor of a new type of news reporting designed to dominate and crush all those with whose own views he disagreed. That’s why his newspapers are failing and why his pathetic attempt at online journalism has now been abandoned.

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