OLD Media Moves

Bercovici: Murdoch cheated WSJ editorial independence

April 24, 2008

Jeff Bercovici of Conde Nast Portfolio writes Thursday that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch found ways around the editorial independence agreement designed to protect The Wall Street Journal from meddling by forcing managing editor Marcus Brauchli to resign.

Marcus BrauchliBercovici writes, “Then, to top it all off, Thomson and new Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton actually told Brauchli, earlier this month, that they’d prefer a managing editor of their own choosing.

“Add it all up, and News Corp.’s claim that Brauchli ‘resigned’ starts to look pretty vulnerable, legally speaking.

“‘There are certainly questions about whether this resignation was voluntary or not,’ says Jane Kirtley, director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota. ‘The reality is that if a job is completely redefined to the point in bears no resemblance to the one you were originally hired to do, I think a case can be made that this amounts to constructive dismissal.’

“Kirtley notes that keeping someone out of the loop, as Thomson and Murdoch reportedly did to Brauchli with the new London edition, is ‘one of the best ways to drive someone out of a job.’

“‘To say he was resigned as opposed to this being his own idea does strike me as a distinction without a difference, at least insofar as the spirit of the agreement goes,’ she adds.”

Read more here.

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