OLD Media Moves

New WSJ book is "scrupulously fair"

January 19, 2010

New York Times business columnist David Carr got a hold of the upcoming book about the sale of The Wall Street Journal from former Journal reporter Sarah Ellison and gave it high marks.

The book, titled “War at The Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire,”  is scheduled to be released in May.

Carr writes, “Beyond the newspaper itself, she makes quick work of some of the characters in the saga. Marty Lipton, the Bancroft’s family lawyer, was actually pro-deal from the jump and played both sides of the street with ease. Rich Zannino, the publisher who more or less delivered the newspaper into Mr. Murdoch’s hands, may not have fully understood the implications of what he was doing, but the blow was cushioned by a massive personal payout. Mr. Brauchli, now the editor of The Washington Post, was a seasoned organizational hand who managed up with alacrity and did everything he could to both please his new boss and appease the newsroom, but was shoved out of the way almost immediately by way of thanks.

“Gary Ginsberg, who has since left News Corporation, vigorously managed both message and process, and Ms. Ellison suggests he believed he might end up as publisher of The Journal. Peter Kann, the former journalist turned publisher, is depicted as imperious and clueless, and secretly blamed by many members of the family for the diminution of the franchise. The family characters are tough to keep track of — never have so many come together to do so little — but Chris Bancroft, who wore a ‘Bite Me’ baseball cap to the final meeting embodies the conundrum: He was personally opposed and voted his own shares against the deal, but was compelled by what he saw as his legal obligations to vote in favor of the shares he oversaw as a trustee. Leslie Hill was compelled to oppose the deal on behalf of the reporters who had helped build the modern franchise: ‘We owe it to them not to sell.’

“But the star of the book is clearly Mr. Murdoch, who had the single-mindedness to bide his time and then come up with a $5 billion bid that was so audacious it created its own gravity.”

Read more here.

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