One Question for Rupert Murdoch

In Rupert Murdoch’s letter

to the Bancroft family, he’s quite unambiguous:

The businesses of Dow Jones, and in particular The Wall Street Journal, represent

American journalism at its best. Your record of journalistic independence

and integrity is second to none. Any interference — or even hint of interference

— would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something

I am unwilling to countenance. Apart from breaching the public’s trust, it

would simply be bad business.

The Journal’s reporters in China don’t

trust him at all, however.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has a well-documented history of making

editorial decisions in order to advance his business interests in China and,

indeed, of sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal or political


The way I see it, where editorial independence is valuable, Murdoch values

it. Where it isn’t, he doesn’t. So even if he’s interfered in editorial decisions

in China in the past, that doesn’t mean he’ll do so with the WSJ in the future.

Yes, Murdoch interferes in the editorial decisions of papers like the Sun and

the New York Post. And the readers of those papers couldn’t care less. So if

I were the Bancrofts, I’d accept Murdoch’s offer of a meeting, and then ask

him one question:

Do Fox News, or the New York Post, or the Sun, have editorial independence

or integrity?

If Murdoch answers yes, then he’s a liar and he can’t be trusted with the Wall

Street Journal. If he starts muttering about how they don’t have the same editorial

safeguards that he’s proposing for the Journal and has put in place at the Times,

I’d just ask the same question again: never mind the safeguards, do you, Rupert

Murdoch, personally interfere in the news coverage at those institutions?

The answer, of course, is yes – and Murdoch should say so. He should

then try to explain in a compelling manner why he interferes with Fox News and

the New York Post, and why he wouldn’t interfere in the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, he will — and should — allow himself to make changes. The Wall

Street Journal might win Pulitzers for grand pieces on China and Capitalism

which read well in New York, but it’s weak in terms of being a must-read provider

of breaking business news to Asian businessmen. The Bancrofts should then ask

themselves whether Murdoch’s is a vision they want to sign on to.

The way I see it, the current impasse is due mainly to the fact that the Bancrofts

don’t trust Murdoch with their paper: they think that what he says he’s going

to do and what he actually will do are two different things. And it’s a little

silly for a $5 billion deal to be scuppered by mistrust between two sides who’ve

never even met. They should get together, and talk. If they still don’t trust

him, the Bancrofts are under no obligation to sell. But they should at least

make an effort to find out for themselves what Murdoch’s really proposing.

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