According to the New York Observer, Michael Wolff (wasn't he ex-NY Observer, and if I'm thinking of the right guy used to write widly inaccurate reports about the IHT?) and Rupert Murdoch.
Interesting piece this, which as per normal, because online content providers haven't worked out a way to monetize their assets and stop me and millions of others from doing exactly the same, I'll post in full below:
How do rumors get started? They get started, apparently, by journalists who seek to connect with powerful sources, according to Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff, who shares an excerpt from his upcoming Rupert Murdoch biography in the October issue of the magazine.
In Tuesdays with Rupert, Mr. Wolff writes:
[Mr. Murdoch] may be among the biggest gossips in New York. In the months of interviewing him, I found that the most reliable way to hold his interest was to bring him a rich nugget. His entire demeanor would change. He’d instantly light up. He’d go from distracted to absolutely focused. Gossip gives him life (and business opportunities). This, I believe, is how the rumor about Michael Bloomberg’s buying The New York Times got legs. I offered it to him as a bit of speculation—conflating two of his favorite subjects, Bloomberg, whom he greatly admires, and the Times, which he does not—that a Bloomberg-Times deal could be possible. He paused, considered, opened his mouth, seemed blissed out for a second, processed this information against his own needs and interests … and then said, “It makes sense. I think I’ll ask him.” And suddenly the rumor was everywhere—he was telling everybody, which made it true. The mayor’s people seemed to like the rumor so much that they began to talk it up themselves. Bloomberg himself seemed to fancy it (offering only a tepid denial) and, Murdoch thinks, could act on it.
Mr. Wolff also floated this wildly speculative idea in the May issue of Vanity Fair when he wrote, "[Mr. Bloomberg] can afford it—and can afford to pay a premium for it. He’s run a media company before, so he might actually know what to do with it. And he’s a man who would be trusted, maybe the man who would be most trusted, by the Times core constituency, the moderate-liberal establishment, to be a proper steward—he, by himself, might bring value to the Times." In a weird twist, Mr. Wolff also wrote of Mayor Bloomberg that "When asked about this rumor"—that is, the rumor Mr. Wolff would tell readers several months later he'd started to engage Mr. Murdoch—"he gives a Cheshire smile."
Here's how the rumor grew from there: In the April 28, 2008 cover profile of Mr. Murdoch in Newsweek, Johnnie L. Roberts wrote:
Not since William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal challenged Joseph Pulitzer's New York World in the late 19th century has there been such a clash of newspaper titans. As was the case when Hearst took on Pulitzer, Murdoch—the son of an Australian journalist—still believes newspapers are the most influential media for shaping the public discourse, even in this new-media century. The fight could escalate in unknown ways if billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ends up acquiring the Times. As NEWSWEEK has learned, top associates of the onetime information executive are encouraging him to do just that.
When that story hit the Web, media and business blogs picked it up, like Paid Content ("The Murdoch Effect: Bloomberg-New York Times Merger Thoughts?; Civic Duty To Save NYT," April 20th) and Portfolio ("Why Bloomberg Won't Buy the New York Times, April 21st). Next up, news organizations like Reuters ("Might Bloomberg buy the New York Times?," April 21st) and The New York Daily News ("Advisers urging Bloomberg to buy New York Times," April 21st) nibbled at it as well, adding more legitimacy. (Mr. Murdoch's own paper, The New York Post, had TIMES MAY BE FIT FOR BLOOMBERG MERGER.)
Finally, the media who cover the media—that would be The Observer—found an angle (Bloomberg "Flattered" by New York Times Speculation, April 21st). Then, as quickly as it started, the rumor began to die: Bloomberg Says Not Interested in Newspaper Business (Reuters, April 21st); Bloomberg denies interest in buying Times (The Boston Herald, April 22nd). Soon, everyone moved on.
That's an awful lot of ink and pixels wasted to engage a busy mogul.
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