Will Murdoch gain another New York daily?

It’s almost down to the wire: Who will own, or at least have control of, Newsday, the New York suburban daily?

It is between the rival publishers of New York’s tabloids: Rupert Murdoch, who owns the New York Post, and Mort Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News. Both are ready, it’s said, to make serious bids.

If it were up to the staff of Newsday it would be Murdoch. An unofficial poll of the staff indicates that more than 50 per cent favour being taken over by Murdoch, mainly because they consider him a “real newspaperman”. Zuckerman, by contrast, is a wealthy New York real estate developer, one of the 50 richest Americans.

It has been estimated that Murdoch (or Zuckerman) will have to pay somewhere between $500 and $600 million (£250-300m) to take over Newsday.

Last year it might have fetched more. But in recent weeks it has been disclosed that Newsday’s advertising sales, like so many other American newspapers, last year fell about 18 per cent.

It was that which prompted the Chicago-based Tribune Company, to consider putting some of its properties on the auction block.

Murdoch has been interested in Newsday for at least a year. Back then he tentatively sounded out the idea of a joint operating deal between the Post and Newsday. He believed that such a deal would turn the Post, which has been draining money for many years, into a viable business.

Although his initial approach was turned down, Murdoch – or at least his News Corp representatives – have been holding closed-door meeting with printing union officials since early March.

One belief is that apart from taking complete control of Newsday, Murdoch would be interested in a joint operating deal, setting up a central office that would produce Newsday,the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

If such a deal came about, it would give Murdoch a major slice of the New York newspaper market.

Meanwhile Murdoch has been putting into effect his promise to “liven up” the Wall Street Journal, which he acquired just four months ago.

In recent weeks, the Journal’s front page has taken on a much stronger political tone – including giving a lot more coverage to the current presidential election camapign.

While other papers are laying off staff, the Journal has been hiring. The 40-person Washington bureau has been slightly enlarged. The newsroom staff, now standing at 750, is expected to grow modestly this year.

The biggest thing Murdoch wants to change is the concept that the Journal is the “second read” for those who have already read a local or national paper.

That’s been the credo since the 1940s. Now, apart from more politics, the paper has become noticeably brighter It has added a weekly sports page and plans later this year to launch a glossy magazine that will focus on fashion and travel. And big surprise – the Journal now runs food recipes in its weekend edition.

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