March 12, 2000

Yahoo-Murdoch: A marriage made in hell

Yahoo News’ possible partnership with the News Corp. could jeopardize its credibility

This column appeared March 12, 2000, in the Online Journalism Review.  Here’s the version on the OJR site.

By J.D. Lasica

Word comes that Yahoo and the News Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, are thinking of hopping into bed.

The announcement, revealed in the March 6 New Yorker, was treated by the tech and business press as just another in a series of possible strategic alliances between corporate titans.

Under the proposed broad partnership, News Corp. — now practically invisible in the online space — would get access to the Web’s biggest platform of all. Yahoo, trying to counter America Online’s pending merger with Time-Warner, would get access to News Corp.’s assets, including 20th Century Fox studios (remember a little flick called “Titanic”?), Fox broadcasting, HarperCollins, the Los Angeles Dodgers, newspapers, 15 TV stations and other holdings. Fox’s satellite networks, which deliver Internet services to consumers, would also be part of the mix.

From a business standpoint, the proposal makes a certain amount of sense.

From a journalistic viewpoint, it bodes something else: a marriage made in hell.

Yahoo News, the largest headline news service on the Web, is a class act — and a rare act in cyberspace. The ultimate news portal, Yahoo News puts news judgment and reader interests ahead of financial considerations. Second-tier news organizations can’t buy their way into the Yahoo News network of two dozen news providers. And tabloid news reports won’t find a mention in its news, politics or crime sections.

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