Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal:
An Unholy Union? I Don’t Think So!

Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the venerable Wall Street Journal seems to have polarized the blogosphere, the mainstream media and a number of my friends and colleagues.

In “Murdoch: Bad for Journalism, Bad for Democracy,” for example, blogger Josh Silver asserts that “those concerned about the journalistic independence and editorial integrity at the Journal have good reason to be worried.” On the other hand, former Knight Ridder executive Ken Bridges writes in his blog, ContentBridges , that “Murdoch's Dow Jones vision is right-on. It's the idea of a global business news and data business delivered to the laptops, desktops, phones, PDAs and TV monitors of everyone who wants in on capitalism around the globe.”

The New York Post — a Murdoch property — proclaims that the Bancrofts’ decision to sell to the media mogul “drew cheers from Wall Street analysts and other public shareholders who said Dow Jones desperately needed News Corp.’s capital and its international multimedia platform to stay competitive in Europe, Asia and across the United States.” But the Post’s arch-rival, the Daily News, has issued dire warnings that “the financial broadsheet [Murdoch] has long coveted is poised to sit alongside the factually challenged Post, Homer Simpson and Bill O’Reilly in the Murdoch trophy case.”

Where do I stand on the issue?

I contend that Murdoch bought the Journal precisely because it is one of the preeminent newspapers in the world and a standard-bearer for business reporting. It’s also a great fit for his new financial channel. I believe his promises to invest in Dow Jones — particularly its digital properties — and to expand its editorial presence overseas.

In an open letter to readers on August 1, WSJ Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz asserts that his paper’s readers “must be able to trust that our facts are right. Livelihoods depend on it, and capital is deployed because of it.” Crovitz further pledges that “the same standards of accuracy, fairness and authority will apply to this publication, regardless of ownership.”

It is the Journal’s objective, high-quality reporting and strong editorial independence that have given the newspaper its prominence and credibility. The newspaper’s 118-year track record is at the heart of the value that Mr. Murdoch is willing to pay $5 billion for. As an op-ed in the Journal states, “No sane businessman pays a premium of 67% over the market price for an asset he intends to ruin.”

If there’s anything the last few years have taught us, it’s that change is endemic in the media today. But change is not necessarily the same thing as disaster.


Technorati Tags: Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch, Josh Silver, Ken Bridges, New York Post, News Crop., Dow Jones, Wall Street, Daily News, L. Gordon Crovitz, business, communications, public relations

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