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Man Bites Murdoch: Review

By Kerry McGovern - posted Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What a joy it is to read a well written autobiography. Bruce Guthrie began his career because of the encouragement of two good teachers. It was their faith in his ability to write that created the ripples that hosed down the stables of Murdoch’s News Ltd in Australia.

This book is a lesson in faith and honesty. Sure, it’s an autobiography and the writer gets to choose what is included and what is excluded. He’s left a few stories out. He doesn’t tell us why he left Time and returned to Australia without a job. And he may have learnt a trick or two from News Ltd by including the bits he wants and simply not reporting anything that doesn’t support his world view. Maybe. But I don’t think so.


Guthrie explains the decline from reporting to money making in the Australian media: a decline supported by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and positively imposed by Jeff Kennett. And throughout this book one learns of a love for reporting, a love for writing and a love for newspapers.

Are newspapers already museum pieces? Guthrie does not think so!. Had newspaper proprietors been quicker at adapting to the internet, he argues, the loss of revenue could have been averted. And the even more significant loss of real reporting could also have been avoided.

Julian Assange’s approach to releasing information facts would gladden Guthrie’s heart. Let the debate about legitimacy be carried out in the open with facts available to all parties!

Guthrie was an editor who took his job seriously. He had an ethical commitment to reporting the facts, whatever they were, and whoever they upset. “Let the people decide” seems to be the motto of his career.


What was to become his career began straight from school when he got a job as copy boy because someone else, recruited in preference, didn’t like the job. Then he became a cadet for similar reasons. Guthrie was meant to be a journalist. He worked hard because he knew how. He respected his colleagues and his bosses. Later in his career he found that no amount of respect can overcome a lack of self respect.

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This is a review of Man bites Murdoch by Brice Guthrie. Melbourne University Press 2010.

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About the Author

Kerry McGovern is a specialist consultant in public sector asset, governance and financial management.

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