Since I was not invited to Herb Allen’s annual media mogul shindig in Sun Valley last week (I am sure it was an oversight) I tried to surreptitiously join the boldface business gang through, you know, the media. Why not? Just Rupert Murdoch, Harvey Weinstein, Terry Semel, Sergey Brin, Barry Diller, Anderson Cooper, Jeff Bezos... and me. I would hitch a virtual ride on a private jet (no plebian time-share for me) and carve up the world media pie and decide how all the people of the world will see, hear, and feel all their information, news and entertainment for the foreseeable future. What fun in the sun.
I was not alone in this voyeuristic pursuit. There is such interest in the Sun Valley event that major media outlets dispatch reporters who can say they are on the scene but cannot really see anything since this is a “No Media” zone for these hotshot media titans. All we get are crumbs of speculation, gossip, and the occasional spark of insight from a Ken AulettaNew Yorker profile. Supposedly, Google seriously smooched up YouTube, and ABC Cap Cities succumbed to ABC at prior Sun Valley mogul fests. Important business gets done here.
So how does the media cover the media when the media is excluded? If you’re The New York Times and you are in the midst of a huge push into ‘new media’ you send David Carr to be an on-the-scene blogger for the Times’ “DealBook.”
In the opening days of the confab Carr was agog with how happy and relaxed Rupert Murdoch looked. Sure. He probably timed his bid for Dow Jones so he would have that little canary in his mouth when getting together with those who thought they were his peers. Not only does Rupert have the juiciest deal in the works, he has the hottest wife, Wendi Deng, 30 years his junior. Rupert had to cough up the biggest divorce settlement in history (big divorce settlement, big... you know), $1.7 billion in assets and $110 million in cash, to his former wife when she caught him having an affair with Wendi. So naturally we want to know how Rupert maintains his virility and unfettered ambition and still look like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
“Rupert Murdoch was spotted with some yogurt on his plate; Warren Buffett had what looked to be a hamburger...” Carr wrote in the DealBook blog.
So, that’s it. Rupert consumes live culture. This news shook the blogosphere. Carr did not mention that an enterprising entrepreneur has already drawn up plans for RUPURT, Rupert yogurt, for the erectile dysfunction/incontinent crowd that wants to be as voracious in their 70s as they were in their 40s.
Is it just me, or does Rupert Murdoch’s face actually seem to be melting? I expect him to rip off the latex mask someday to reveal a 35 year old guy who will scream with glee: “I will live forever and own all media and my wife will always be 30 years younger than me.” No matter what good intentions he espouses, dress him up in a Hawaiian shirt and khakis and Rupert Murdoch still looks like a Batman bad guy who hatches his evil plans for world domination in an underground lair.
Bottom line media news from Sun Valley: No deals, nothing substantive but David Carr is cool. He was on the scene, sneaking behind the vegetation, tangling with the burly body guard, knocking back shots and commiserating with reporters in the local bar. He corners Howard Stringer in the bar when other reporters are too shy (he does have a deadline to consider, and you get the sense that he is ennobled by liquid libation), and is harangued by security for having the temerity to write down what Sergey Brin is saying.
New York Times readers were not thrilled with Carr and the paper-of-record’s lean toward chattiness in its Internet reporting. Comments one: “ok, please stop the fawning and breathless reports of celebrity spotting. unless this has to do with deals, markets, or news, no one really cares. how many pixels/ink you guys gonna waste on this drivel?”
Finally, Carr lands some big game mogul. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, ventured into the gaggle of info-starved reporters and dropped a few bombs at Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who was obliged to retaliate when he arrived on the scene. It was sort of a Paris vs. Lindsay exchange although nobody snapped these guys going commando in uncompromising positions.
I liked Carr’s reporting because he was writing like a blogger on constant deadline, not a stuffy Times reporter considering his words for posterity. Carr was not afraid to be a goofball gawker, not Alessandra Stanley issuing high directives about what to like or not like on TV because it fits with the Times standard of liberal, cultural elitism. The Times is forcing change through increasing use of video segments, podcasts, blogs, and slide shows to accompany news and criticism. Times readers, I see through comments on various blogs, have no sense of humor, are resistant to change, and prefer their news to be wrapped in a highly liberal bias. This blog-driven chattiness about lunch fare and summer mogul fashion and the lust for power and money must drive them crazy. You gotta love it.
Mark Rose is founder and CEO of RosePR/new media, offering best-of-breed digital communications strategies and resources. He is also editor of PRBlogNews , a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.