Murdoch already cutting into WSJ independence agreement?
Jeff Bercovici of Conde Nast Portfolio writes Tuesday that new Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch appears to be already cutting into his agreement not to interfere in the paper’s operations by changing the job of publisher of the paper to one that is only involved in the editorial side of the operations.
Bercovici wrote, “That raises the question of whether the creation of what is, in effect, a new editorial post above [managing editor Marcus]Â Brauchli‘s subverts a pact meant to reinforce the primacy of the Journal‘s managing editor in news decisions.
“‘I don’t think it’s consistent with the spirit of the agreement,’ says Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. ‘I can’t point to a provision where they’re in violation of the terms, as spelled out in black and white. But whether they’re in violation of the spirit is a fair question.’
“‘Let me put it this way,’ Kirtley adds. ‘I think the agreement was drafted in such a way that it left open a lot of room for maneuvering.’
“Indeed, because of that room, it’s easy to make the case that there’s nothing untoward about News Corp.’s actions. Tom Bray, chairman of the five-person committee charged with overseeing compliance of the agreement, notes that it explicitly delineates the authority of the managing editor and editorial page editor but does not do so for the publisher. A change in the publisher’s duties, therefore, lies outside the agreement’s purview.”
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