Nicholas Lemann has an interesting piece in The New Yorker, “Paper Tigers,” in which he discusses recent biographies of prominent press barons. He particularly addresses Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch and his likenesses to earlier media moguls such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst (as well as the WSJ‘s earlier powerhouse, Barney Kilgore).

(Those who, like me, are devoted fans of Citizen Kane will be unable to read the Hearst passages without thinking of Charles Foster Kane and his fictional New York Inquirer, mercilessly mirroring Hearst and his New York Journal.)

Lemann says that each of these media barons had an individual but uncanny knack for knowing what their readers wanted, and each learned how to build a fortune while providing the supply for that demand.

He concludes:

 These days, we seem to be drifting toward the world that media reformers have dreamed about for half a century, where the press is made up entirely of small players. If we get there, we may find ourselves missing the dinosaurs who once roamed the earth.