An interview with Walter Marsh (Young Rupert)

For half a century, the Murdoch media empire and its polarising patriarch have swept across the globe, shaking up markets and democracies in their wake. But how did it all start?

Journalist — and now author — Walter Marsh tackled this question in his debut book Young Rupert: the making of the Murdoch empire. Drawing on unpublished archival material and new reportage, the book reveals a fascinating time capsule of Australian media on the cusp of an extraordinary ascension.

To celebrate the release of Walter’s new book, we asked him a few questions about his inspirations, interesting discoveries, and surprises about the publishing process. 

Congratulations on publishing your debut book! With Young Rupert having been out for about a month now, what are some things that you've learned about being a published author? Were there any surprises?

It’s all been a big learning experience, and I’m trying to take it all in as one nice, surreal surprise. The reality of something suddenly being read by a lot of people is weird and cool, which you can almost lose sight of in the many months spent at home tinkering with your little word documents. Then suddenly you've got old high school friends sending you photos of the book in the wild, and strangers reaching out after hearing an interview on the radio.


In the simplest form: why Rupert Murdoch?

When I was at university I wrote a 16,000 word Honours thesis on Rupert’s Adelaide years, basically inspired by the fact my hometown, Adelaide, has been a one-paper town — a Murdoch town — for my whole life. I was curious how it got that way, but once I got into the archives I found court transcripts and unpublished letters that spelled out this story of Rupert and the people around him. That stuck with me for the best part of a decade until I eventually bit the bullet and wrote the book.


What was one of the most surprising things that you uncovered in your research for Young Rupert?

There are moments in the archive when you open a box or a folder and read something that fills a gap or adds a perspective so perfectly that it’s as if it was waiting just for you. Halfway through my research I found a set of handwritten notes commenting on a 1959 Royal Commission that forms a big chunk of the book. They were written in the weeks after its conclusion and sealed in an envelope with the message, ‘not to be opened before 1985 and then not to be used until all persons concerned are dead’. They were finally unsealed in 2012, and were so illuminating and candid that at one point the author added an aside, ‘What a note this is! I am sorry, posterity, to have inflicted it upon you’. I didn’t mind!


You've cited a wide range of inspirations, from The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman, to the work of Joan Didion and Truman Capote. How would you say that their work has influenced yours?

I don’t overthink it but I’ve clearly mined those books for inspiration re: style, tone and structure. Whether fiction or nonfiction, how those writers draw me into these times and characters and events were all in the back of my mind as I tried to keep the reader (and myself) wanting to know what’s on the next page, the next chapter.

My partner turned me on to Saidiya Hartman around the time I started writing the book, and while the subject matter is totally different, the way she approaches archives and people and creating these really vivid vignettes was instructive. But it also drove home the stories that weren’t necessarily present in the archives, that don’t get told when we focus on big clashes between rich, white men. So even though it's young Rupert on the cover, I hope the stories I tell in this book do some justice to the people who lived through this time and these places but have perhaps been nudged to the peripheries of history.


What is one piece of advice that you would give to your past self (or any other aspiring authors)?

I’d say don’t be afraid to fall off the radar for a bit. We tend to see the exciting bits of an author’s life — when they’re unboxing their new book, doing media, or out on the festival circuit — but not so much all the time at home on their computer, which is far less Instagrammable. But that hermit time is where the magic happens!

Young Rupert is available now, online and in stores.

Young Rupert

For half a century, the Murdoch media empire and its polarising patriarch have swept across the globe, shaking up markets and democracies in their wake. But how did it all start?

In September 1953, 22-year-old Rupert Murdoch landed in Adelaide, South Australia. Fresh from Oxford with a radical reputation, the young and brash son of Sir Keith Murdoch had arrived to fulfill his father’s dying wish: for Rupert to live a ‘useful altruistic and full life’ in the media.

For decades, Sir Keith had been a giant of the Australian press, but his final years were spent bitterly fending off rivals and would-be…

Read more

Related content


Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh is a journalist based in Tarntanya/Adelaide with a…

Quick view

Young Rupert

Walter Marsh

Cover view