MCS33610.1177/0163443711411004McKnight and HobbsMedia, Culture & Society
Media, Culture & Society 33(6) 835–850 © The Author(s) 2011 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0163443711411004 mcs.sagepub.com
‘You’re all a bunch of pinkos’: Rupert Murdoch and the politics of HarperCollins David McKnight Mitchell Hobbs
University of New South Wales, Australia
University of Newcastle, Australia
Abstract News Corporation is one of the most closely studied international media conglomerates, headed by the world’s most famous media proprietor. Yet, despite its prominence in the academic literature, little attention has been paid to the company’s book publishing operations. This article seeks to rectify this oversight. It investigates some of the more controversial book deals made by HarperCollins, outlining a partisan publishing pattern that conforms to Murdoch’s proclivity for conservative politics. Keywords agenda setting, book publishing, conservatism, media bias, HarperCollins, Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation In September 2010, following its success in publishing Going Rogue: An American Life (2009) written by the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, the global book publisher, HarperCollins announced that it would begin a specialist imprint for books on conservative topics and by conservative authors (Bosman, 2010). The new imprint, Broadside Books, followed other successes with conservative titles, such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s Pinheads and Patriots, which rose to No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list in September 2010. In charge of Broadside Books is Adam Bellow, who said the name had ‘a certain combative edge’ and that the firm would publish ‘books on the culture wars, books of ideas, books of revisionist history, biographies, anthologies, Corresponding author: Mitchell Hobbs, Faculty of Education and Arts, School of Humanities and Social Science, University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308. Email: Mitchell.Hobbs@newcastle.edu.au
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polemical paperbacks and pop-culture books from a conservative point of view’ (Bosman, 2010). Forthcoming books include one on the ‘death of liberalism’ and a ‘free market capitalist’s survival guide’. Bellow predicted ‘we are on the cusp of an explosion of intellectual activity on the right’ (Bosman, 2010). Publishers have been inspired by the sales of over 2 million copies of Palin’s Going Rogue and the likely success of a follow-up by her, also to be published by HarperCollins. The creation of an imprint for conservative thought is not unique to HarperCollins. Random House created Crown Forum and Simon & Schuster have Threshold. But HarperCollins can rightly claim that it seized strategic territory in the ideological war much earlier. For example, the publisher has made a speciality of securing the memoirs of conservative political leaders. These include the presidential diaries of Ronald Reagan and Ronald Reagan: 100 Years, Margaret Thatcher’s books, The Downing Street Years (1993) The Path to Power (1995) and Statecraft (2002), as well as John Major’s memoir John Major (1999), Dan Quayle’s Standing Firm: A Vice-Presidential Memoir (2004) and, most recently, Lazarus Rising, by the former conservative Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. This article examines HarperCollins and its considerable output of conservative books which, unlike the content of other media outlets of News Corporation has only ever been examined sporadically. The article suggests first, that HarperCollins books has contributed to the ‘battle of ideas’ fostered by the conservative movement in the US, second, it has been institutionally linked to other politicized News Corporation media outlets such as the journal the Weekly Standard and the cable TV channel, Fox News, and third (and overlapping with the former),1 its books sometimes reflect several of the ideological enthusiasms of...