Murdoch must buy the Jewish Chronicle

An open letter from Norman Lebrecht to Rupert Murdoch

Artillery Row

Dear Rupert Murdoch,


Forgive me for intruding on a slight acquaintance but we met at one of Graham King’s parties in the aftermath of Wapping and you took a fancy to my Liberty tie. Not long after, I had a quality chat with your old Mum who was building a chamber music hall in Melbourne with a nice Jewish lady called Lin. The hall’s a gem but they never worked out what to put in it so, like the Sydney Opera House, it slumbers in the sun. Typical Oz? You’d know better than me, mate. But I digress.

The reason I’m writing is to alert you to a once-in-two-centuries media opportunity. You may have spotted it already in the Times.  The Jewish Chronicle, est. 1841, has fallen into a black hole and will go under in a couple of weeks unless someone comes up with a rescue plan. What it really needs is a white knight who knows the difference between a newspaper and fishwrap and can see the advantage of being publisher to the Jews.

What’s in it for me, you ask? Forget the knight metaphor, nobody at the JC ever got gonged. But consider the influence. Present company excepted, Jews control the media, right? So how sweet the sound of an Aussie-American Scottish Presbyterian taking over the failing organ of the once-chosen people and being welcomed as a saviour into their secret convocations.

Not that secret, mind. We’re talking chopped liver here, cut with egg-and-onion, followed by matza-balls the size of Crocodile Dundee. We’re talking of a paper that people read before or after (but never during) Friday night dinner and which they keep for days after, angst-ridden that they might have missed an entry on the hatch-match-dispatch pages. No newspaper to my knowledge ever receives such close line-by-line attention from its readers.

I once heard of a man in Leicester, admittedly a German exile, who had his JC ironed with his white shirt on Friday morning and then stapled at the spine so that it could be laid upon his Sabbath table. No disrespect, Mr Murdoch, but do many readers doing that with The Sun?

Since we’re talking influence, the JC is read by everyone you’ll ever need. I was once being treated in pain by an emergency doctor at the Royal Free when he looked up from the affected part and asked, ‘don’t you write for the JC?’ It gets you to the head of the queue, the best of care, the first available operating table. It’s called yichus, or maybe tuchus, one or the other. Leave it to the subs.

What else does it do? It acts as a canary in the coalmine of incitement, peeping out the first whiff of antisemitism. It keeps charities honest and rabbis humble. It treats politicians with kid gloves, especially Israelis who come bearing promises, promises. It is read from Aberdeen to Melbourne, by way of Jo’burg and Mumbai. It is more global than McDonalds, and kosher besides.

What got it into present difficulties started with a pension fund problem and spiraled into critical care with Covid-19, may its name be erased, tfui-tfui. Some of the finest insolvency practitioners in the land are now racking their brains how to save it. We’re talking blue-chip number-crunchers, men who have saved Premiership clubs from the knacker’s yard and may yet wrest Harry Kane from the grasp of those unsavoury Glasers.

Knacker, by the way, is not what you think. To JC readers, it’s a compliment. A gantser knakker, in Yiddish, is a person of substance, a big cheese.

You, Rupert, could be the ganste knakker of the Jewish Chronicle. Think about it. A silver kiddush cup with your name engraved on it. A mazal tov from Michael Grade. A rumbling below that is the sound of Robert Maxwell turning in his grave.

At the hour of writing, a group of northwest Londoners are trying to finesse a rescue deal that will save the JC, some say, for generations to come. In these dark times, we look no further than week ahead in the hope that those we love will still be with us, isolated as they may be.

But among the loved ones, let’s count the JC. The paper has annoyed more Jews in the past decade than Jeremy Corbyn and pleased fewer than the Pope. But the red mist is a by-product of good journalism and deep down we have an affection for the old rag – we, the descendants of migrants who sold old rags for a living.

The JC must be saved, Mr Murdoch. If you won’t do it, some other knakker will.

Be well.

Norman Lebrecht


Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try three issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £5

Critic magazine cover