Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Will Murdoch signal the end for The Wall Street Journal?

Oooh boy, did I speak too soon. I thought I am going to be pretty relaxed the next few days, but I thought wrong. Need to finish proofreading the election book and writing an article for PJR Reports. Aargh.

Meanwhile to keep me insane, here are three good reads from the Columbia Journalism Review on the controversial deal between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Dow Jones & Company and its jewel, the highly-respected The Wall Street Journal.

CJR's editorial on the Murdoch offer

A familiar fable tells of a scorpion that asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is sensibly fearful of getting stung. But the scorpion is persuasive, pointing out that if he stings the frog, they will both sink into the water and die. Why would he do such a thing? So the frog agrees. Midway across the stream, the scorpion stings. The dying frog asks: Why? It's my nature, the scorpion explains.

For our purpose here the frog is the Bancroft family and the scorpion is the charming Rupert Murdoch, who would very much like to own the Bancrofts' shares in Dow Jones & Company and its jewel, The Wall Street Journal. Family members sensibly fear that he would misuse that paper's journalistic power. Murdoch's answer is that to damage the credibility of the Journal would be to destroy it. Why would he do such a thing?

You know the answer. For proof, you can read the wonderful 114-inch page-one piece in the June 5 Journal itself, which reported multiple examples all around the world demonstrating (again) that Murdoch's "newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interest of his sprawling media conglomerate, News Corp."

Why the Dow Jones Vote Matters
Dean Starkman on the mission of The Wall Street Journal
NEW YORK -- Last Nov. 14, 38-year-old Martin A. Siegel, one of Wall Street's leading investment bankers, was spending the afternoon in the Park Avenue offices of Martin Lipton, an eminent takeover lawyer and a man Mr. Siegel had come to regard almost as a father.

Suddenly a federal marshal burst in upon the two men, thrusting a subpoena into Mr. Siegel's hand. When Mr. Siegel read the subject matter of the investigation—Ivan F. Boesky—and the accompanying list of his own takeover deals at Kidder, Peabody & Co. in the 1980s, he knew his career was over. He began sobbing, as a horrified Mr. Lipton rushed to comfort him. [1]

The Wall Street Journal leder. Has modern American newspapering produced anything better, or at least more elegant? The nation's leading financial daily has produced long-form narratives on its front page since Bernard Kilgore decided after World War II that the nation's business news was of interest to people other than the nation's businessmen and women, and that the interests of the nation's businessmen and women were broader than just business news.

Murdoch historian Bruce Page on how Rupert built his empire, and how he uses it

“There might be other buyers more palatable to them. But who’s to say Rupert Murdoch is all that bad?”

Brian Rogers of T. Rowe Price, advising the Bancrofts to sell The Wall Street Journal.

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by bad—or good—and on who is a credible witness. Robert Thomson, editor of The Times of London, testifies for good. He says Rupert Murdoch’s control of The Times doesn’t distort its reporting, which is admirable if true. But Mr. Thomson is a Murdoch employee, and there’s some evidence that he is talking through his hat.

For Mr. Rogers, making money is generally “good,” but there are particulars in News Corp. that might trouble him. For instance, making money at newspapers like The Wall Street Journal is something Murdoch has been notably bad at. (The Times is a prime example.) We must estimate, since News Corp. doesn’t publish results for its individual titles. (There are about 175 of them, the best-known being the New York Post, in America; The Times, the Sunday Times, The Sun, and the News of the World, in Britain: The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and The Mercury, in Australia). Media companies are often secretive, and News Corp. outstandingly so. If due diligence meant as much as Wall Street pretends it does, the Bancroft advisers would require disclosure before talking business.


yasuren said...

to keep me insane... hmm.. haha

bryant said...


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