Media Moves

Journal's best reporters will defect if Murdoch buys paper

May 8, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Slate’s Jack Schafer predicts that the best journalists at The Wall Street Journal paper will leave if News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is successful in buying its parent, Dow Jones & Co.

Jack SchaferSchafer wrote, “Of course, nobody should take Murdoch at his word. Whatever soothing music he sings about no meddling by the CEO and maintaining high editorial standards, he’ll quickly identify enemies in the Journal‘s newsroom and show them the door. Many of the Journal‘s 600 news-gatherers won’t need an escort: They’ll quit in protest, just as 60 Chicago Sun-Times reporters and editors did in the opening weeks of Murdoch’s ownership of that paper in 1984. It was a gutsy move on their part, as the job market was extraordinarily tight that season.

“The Journal‘s very best journalists will be the first to defect because 1) the very best can always find better jobs and 2) they know Murdoch rarely makes good on no-meddling pledges. Harold Evans complains in his working-for-Rupert memoir, Good Times, Bad Times, that Murdoch violated every promise of editorial independence he made after purchasing the Sunday Times and appointing him editor. Upon confronting Murdoch about the broken promises, Evans claims the mogul replied, ‘They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.’

“How bad will the Murdoch-owned Journal be? Not as bad as you may expect. Many Chicagoans recall that Murdoch destroyed the Sun-Times with his down-market tabloid formula, but a study conducted by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism indicates that the ruination of the Sun-Times was more a matter of perception than reality.”

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