|Photo: Nancy Kaszerman|
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"Can't we just leave A-Rod alone?" said one letter writer. "A-Rod's choice in entertainment or fidelity is not news or worthy of gossip," wrote another. "It always comes down to one thing with A-Rod -- jealously," said a third.
Poor Alex Rodriguez. First the Post splashes pictures of the Yankees' star third baseman on the town with his model friend, then manager Joe Torre rebukes him for yelling "Ha!" to cause an opposing player to drop a routine popup. Torre, who almost never criticizes his players, said A-Rod's outburst was "probably something he shouldn't have done."
All of this, of course, is standard operating procedure for Rupert Murdoch's Post. But as Mr. Murdoch pursues Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, superstar business tycoons should start to wonder whether their after-hour exploits will be fair game. Could "Stray Rod" turn into "Immelt-down," for instance, especially as Murdoch's Fox Business goes up against GE's CNBC?
Preposterous, you say. Well, consider this. Boeing's Harry Stonecipher got the boot after having an affair with an employee. What if one of the business papers obtained a photo of him smooching his lady love? Would it -- should it -- run the picture?
Let's take a hypothetical. Assume Ad Age snapped a picture of Julie Roehm and her sidekick, Sean Womack, at some romantic rendezvous. (We did not.) She and he have denied Wal-Mart's allegations that they had more than a business relationship, but such a picture would seem to point to the contrary. Under that scenario, should we run it, and if we did, would our readers say, like they said about A-Rod, that it's none of our business?
You could argue that there's less reason to run such provocative pictures in sports -- unless it affects the players' game. And anyway, as David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel put it, "One definition of news is uniqueness. There is nothing unique about an athlete running around on his wife."
The rule "always has blurry edges. If a player has marital problems, when does personal turmoil affect professional performance?"
Now, he's said "everything's fair game," and I would add that it's not such a stretch from the sports page to the business page.
A-Rod's canoodling isn't the only Post story that businesspeople hope never happens to them. The paper ran an account of how Condé Nast turned down an overture from a United Arab Emirates publisher to print a Middle East edition of Vogue. The Post printed an internal e-mail sent by Condé Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse. "Our company has no wish to impose its values on a society which does not fully share them," the Post quotes from the e-mail. "And we do not wish to provoke a strongly negative, even violent reaction."
That seems to me to be a perfectly logical business decision, but the Post headlined the story "Condé Nasty." And then it printed a phony Vogue Middle East cover with "samples of what Middle East readers won't be seeing on the stands" -- such as "Jihadi Hotties: Al Qaeda's 10 sexiest" and "72 Virgins: Fact vs. Fiction."
Very funny. Except the boys from Al Qaeda and their followers aren't known for their sense of humor. It doesn't take much to get them riled up (remember those Danish cartoons that triggered rioting around the world? No U.S. publication dared publish them).
A lot of people maintain they aren't interested in the lurid personal details of sports and movie stars, but sales of the Post indicate otherwise. So isn't it inevitable that prominent businesspeople will get the same kind of coverage? After all, Rupert Murdoch has a knack for giving people what they want -- even if they don't know it at the time.