Murdoch’s Words Inspire Students to Dream
It was the very last question that took me most by surprise. After a handful of students lined the aisle of Gaston Hall to question News Corporation Director and Chairman Rupert Murdoch – mostly about the competing futures of Myspace (recently acquired by News Corp.) and Facebook – an older, faintly Russian-accented woman bent the microphone and asked something completely different. She wanted to know if true democracy could ever be felt in the media when most of the news is held by one hand.
A few people around me muttered, but my neck quickly snapped toward the speaker: News Corp. undoubtedly holds important and influential parts of the media pie – who doesn’t know how powerful Rupert Murdoch is? To be sure, Washingtonian suits filled the first five rows. I could hear their distant chuckles as one voice rose above the others: “She must have an interesting take on antitrust laws.”
But as I expected, Murdoch comfortably responded, “News Corp. is only one slice.” He continued to explain that there are millions of media corporations and outlets all over the world with their own voices completely unrelated to News Corp. “Everything News Corp. has done,” he finished answering her and cracked a smile, “. in fact, has been to increase competition.”
And I believed him. Murdoch first entered the stage only to collapse into a chair, chin folded in his palm, while the proctor introduced our non-introducible guest. But as he planted himself at the podium for the next hour, he spoke with direction. Murdoch was quick. He was funny, manicured and candid. In his elegantly structured lecture, he stopped after every point to highlight the particular importance of opportunity and competition. This was his theme. He also explained that this was integral to the atmosphere his company created throughout its history. He introduced interesting prospects he thinks the internet and technology worlds have to offer as both challenges and opportunities. He continually brought the focus back to our generation and stressed opportunity by affirming his view that newspapers are the best place for young people to get their first, competitive and hungry experiences in media.
It was on this thought that I realized Murdoch had given me the most important tip of the afternoon – and perhaps of my career. The crowd broke as the speech concluded and I wove up to the front of the stage. I pushed through the angry Department of Public Safety officer’s barricade to the back door of Gaston Hall until I realized I was already through the door, just a few steps behind Rupert Murdoch.
As I followed him down the back stairwell, I had one question in my mind. When we finally burst out the back of New North, I shook his hand and introduced myself as a student and aspiring journalist. He knowingly met my eye, so I continued: “Is there anything you have to fear from our generation?” With all this talk of success and opportunity, I explained as we walked, that the movement towards Myspace and Facebook was creating outlets for practically anything, and sometimes leading to negative impressions about what kids today are interested in (or worse, have to offer). He paused, smiled at me, and said, “No. I don’t worry about that. There is nothing I fear of you guys. I am very optimistic.”
I like to think that, perhaps, despite contrary statistical evidence, my example to seize a truly priceless opportunity was, though small, a nod to him that the future certainly did look bright.
I’m sure students at Georgetown sitting in the audience felt just as energized by this man as I did through his speech. The very idea of someone so successful addressing us on how to think the way he did spread an air of earnestness throughout the room, even if everyone wasn’t on the edge of her seat like I was. But what Murdoch might not have realized is that his power that day was not at all in the form of someone with a large grip over many media institutions, but of one with a grip on my ear, and in the end, on my conviction.