Vanity Fair‘s media writer must have had flashbacks of his dot-com days. Michael Wolff finds himself not only in an “off-the-record” interview with a billionaire who would like to buy a newspaper, but also giving the guy advice. Wolff tells one of the great man’s aides on his way out: “He doesn’t have a clue.”
His outspokenness also gets a promise of “future consultations” and reminds us why we have paid tabloids in our fair city:
Newspapers — in rather direct contradiction to the theoretical values of the journalists who worked for them — have classically been about power and influence and settling scores (in the ideal formulation, the proprietor gets the editorial page to exercise his primal needs, while the news pages remain more pure) and, not least of all, gaining advantages in real-estate deals. Newspapers often bullied their way to centrality in a community. They were a kind of Mafia, a kind of protection racket — you don’t play nice with me, you don’t advertise with me, I mess with you.
Actually, it is not impossible to imagine, in this age of so many billionaires, that competing billionaires would want competing papers. That you can’t be an effective or prideful billionaire without your own paper. New York City has the most robust newspaper market in the nation because billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman‘s break-even-ish Daily News competes against billionaire Rupert Murdoch‘s certainly-money-losing New York Post.