Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of Fox Corp.'s settlement with Dominion Voting Systems in a defamation lawsuit.
Good. It’s a start.
But anyone hopeful that this will bring about meaningful change in his poisonous empire is likely to be sorely disappointed. Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, who is already the chief executive of Fox Corporation, will become sole chairman of both companies.
In this case, the rotten apple does not fall far from the tree.
Murdoch, 92, launched Fox News, along with his henchman Roger Ailes, in, 1996. It was billed as a conservative cable news antidote to what some people viewed as a left-leaning CNN. Technically, it was, and still is. But it also became something else, something worse.
Ailes was the architect of Fox News, but Murdoch was the boss
Ailes was the architect, but Murdoch was the boss. As he had done with his media properties in Australia and England, Murdoch used this considerable power to champion politicians and causes he liked and to attack those he didn’t. He never made any particular effort to hide it.
Somebody somewhere at Fox News once came up with the slogan “fair and balanced” to describe its newscast. To everyone outside of Fox News — as well as a lot of people inside it — it was a punchline, not a credo.
This brand of what can’t really be called journalism reached its apex — or its nadir, depending on how you look at the world, and how you look at truth — when Donald Trump ran for president and won.
The careless disregard for the truth when it came to covering Trump while trying to please its rabid audience came at a cost — not in the ratings, where Fox News has excelled, but in the company bank account.
In April, the network settled a defamation suit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million after its on-air personalities repeatedly made false claims about the 2020 election.
We also learned during the process that what many of Fox News’ personalities believed privately about Trump and the election was different from the misinformation they were spreading on camera.
Not long after, the settlement the network — which is to say, Murdoch — got rid of Tucker Carlson, at the time the most popular, and the most noxious, host on cable news.
Rupert Murdoch's son likely won't change much
There is no reason to believe Lachlan Murdoch will run the ship any differently. He has been hands-on for a few years, after all. The network has continued to be a safe harbor for anyone who wants to spread misinformation or worse.
There have been chances to make the network’s prime-time shows more credible, but that hasn’t happened. After dumping Carlson, Fox News named Jesse Watters to replace him. If anything, Watters is a loonier Carlson, only not as smart.
He’s on brand, if nothing else.
This is a company that allows Sean Hannity, one of its most popular hosts, not only to shill for Trump but campaign for him. And Hannity reportedly was a back-channel advisor to Trump while he was president. So much for fair and balanced.
Not a great look, but not exactly surprising. The Dominion lawsuit made clear that if it was a choice between money and honest journalism, Murdoch didn’t hesitate to side with money.
These decisions have made Murdoch an incredibly rich man. But what about his soul?
Actually, who cares about Murdoch's soul? What about the soul of legitimate journalism?
The lasting impact, and harm, to journalism is incalculable
Murdoch and his cronies have done incalculable damage to trust in the news. There are large groups of people who now believe a story only if they see it on Fox News. That’s where they can turn for a consistent stream of outrage. Because that’s what Murdoch and Fox News really specialize in — not reporting on stories so much as doubling down on the fear and anger that stroke Trump’s base.
The Murdoch family was one of the inspirations for the brilliant TV series “Succession.” Brian Cox plays a version of Murdoch — a cunning, duplicitous billionaire who controlled a huge stake in conservative media. The entire series revolved around which of his children, if any, were worthy to succeed him.
The real-life succession at Fox News was not without its dramas, but didn’t reach such Shakespearean levels, at least not publicly. And at this point, it seems like just a rich guy letting one of his sons take over the company. And there is no reason to believe it will be anything other than business as usual.
Which makes the whole thing not a prestige TV drama, but a real-life tragedy.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rupert Murdoch steps down. Why his son Lachlan won't improve Fox News