“I want to thank Rupert Murdoch for launching a newspaper war right in time for the launch of my book,” said Sarah Ellison, the author of War at The Wall Street Journal, last night. “Impeccable timing.”
Ms. Ellison was saying thank-yous to friends and former colleagues at her book party at the Four Seasons Hotel.
She described Mr. Murdoch’s obsession with The Times and Arthur Sulzberger as a modern day Moby Dick story.
“Other people have referred to it more lightheartedly—and I think aptly—as akin to two bald men fighting over a comb,” she said to close her remarks.
“My book from the beginning set off to be a narrative that really saw Murdoch in action and saw the action of the moment, and I think Wolff’s book is a columnist’s book. It really is a lot of his take on Murdoch,” she said last night in an interview when we asked her about Michael Wolff’s The Man Who Owns the News, which came out in 2008.
Ms. Ellison’s book has been a hit among media writers, and we wondered how she was able to write that gripping chapter when she was traveling with Rupert Murdoch the day he was in Washington and hammering out the details of Marcus Brauchli’s dismissal.
Ms. Ellison, holding her clutch and a reporter’s notepad, told us that she was with Mr. Murdoch on his plane that day.
“I asked if I could travel with him because I had always learned that was the best way to really feature someone is to spend time with them on a trip,” she said. “They said, O.K., he’s going to Washington, D.C., and I originally thought that’s a very short trip. They might as well have offered me a cab ride with him down to Canal Street from midtown!”
“But it ended up being this really dramatic day,” she continued. “Following him through that day was really chilling in terms of how you can watch a corporate murder unfold. I didn’t write myself into that scene because I wasn’t remotely important.”
And what does Ms. Ellison, a former Journal reporter herself, think about the latest chapter in Mr. Murdoch’s attack on The Times: The Greater New York section?
“My issue with it is that The Journal has been a corporate watchdog,” she said. “There are limited resources in journalism, and I feel like that’s a more important mission than writing about rats on the Upper East Side or the erosion on Hamptons beaches.”
“It doesn’t really have a reason for being in The Wall Street Journal,” she said. “I was expecting it to be more of a how the city functions, or the finances of the city, or covering the city from a really sort of unusual perspective. Everyone loves a good police blotter and that’s what that is.”
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