OLD Media Moves

Did Murdoch have story about wife spiked by Fortune contributor?

May 10, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

For the third time in four days, Slate.com media columnist Jack Shafer has it out for News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch over his proposed deal to buy Dow Jones & Co. and take over The Wall Street Journal.

Jack ShaferThis time, Shafer is examining the curious incident of a profile written about Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, by Fortune contributor Eric Ellis that was slated to run in an Australian newspaper but was mysteriously killed. Interestingly, Murdoch owned a 7 percent stake in the parent company of the newspaper at the time the story was killed.

What does this have to do with the Journal? Murdoch is on record as having disliked the paper’s front-page story about his wife in 2000.

Shafer wrote, “The mogul is obviously still sensitive about his latest bride. Rupert-watchers in Australia and the United Kingdom speculate that Murdoch may have played a role in the recent spiking of a 10,000-word-plus Deng profile. (Crikey.com broke the story.) Written by Fortune magazine contributor Eric Ellis, the profile was commissioned by Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine Fairfax Media inserts inside its Melbourne and Sydney dailies. At the time the spike was delivered, Murdoch’s News Corp. owned 7.5 percent of Fairfax, which raises the question: Is Rupert the sort of guy who would kill a critical story about his wife? If so, is he the sort of guy we want to own the Wall Street Journal?

“The Financial Times reported April 24 that ‘after the [Deng] story landed and was much praised by editors for the quality of its research, a sudden decision was made last week not to run it.’ Journalists at The Age, the Fairfax paper in Melbourne, demanded to know whether the piece had been pulled on editorial grounds or as a result of boardroom machinations, i.e., Murdoch intervention. Whatever happened, Murdoch couldn’t have been very happy. Just days later, News Corp. sold its Fairfax stake.”

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