Media Moves

Ottaway family members issue statements opposing Dow Jones sale

May 6, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Jim Ottaway Jr., a former executive of Dow Jones & Co., has issued a statement saying that he opposes selling the company to News Corp. because it would result in the compromising of The Wall Street Journal’s integrity. The Ottaway family still owns more than 6 percent of the company’s stock.

Jim OttawayThe statement, posted Sunday afternoon on the newspaper’s web site, stated, in part: “The brand name, the major asset of Dow Jones, is based upon its reputation for, and daily practice of, accurate, fair, objective and reliable business news reporting. This would be damaged and if Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. take over Dow Jones. It is this journalistic integrity which has created shareholder value, as recognized by the News Corp. offer. It will continue to create shareholder value in the future of our information society.

“In his charm offensive of public media interviews to convince Bancroft family members holding a majority of voting shares to accept his opening offer of $60 a share, Mr. Murdoch said, ‘We are the sort of people with the same traditions that I think will prove great guardians for this paper (The Wall Street Journal).’

“That is not true. The Bancroft family tradition since Clarence Barron bought Dow Jones in 1905 has been to hire first rate managers and editors and let them run the company, without Bancroft family interference in editorial opinions or news coverage, with family influence on business decisions exercised through its representatives on the Dow Jones board of directors.

“Rupert Murdoch comes from a very different tradition of Australian-British media ownership and editorial practice in which he has for a long time expressed his personal, political, and business biases through his newspapers and television channels.”

Meanwhile, Ottaway’s son Jay issued a letter to the Bancroft family, which owns a majority of the voting stock in Dow Jones. It stated, in part: “If you need a taste of what the 100-year Dow Jones legacy could become, just turn on your television and watch Fox News or read Harold Evans’ book about his time as editor of the Times of London, where he describes how Mr. Murdoch eroded its standards, and broke written promises he made to maintain the paper’s editorial independence.

“Never has so much information about what could happen to Dow Jones after a sale been available. It is clear that any promise of editorial independence will not be honored. Simply put, this is a question of whether a legacy and a great American institution should be sold to the highest bidder. I read many commentaries saying that the times are changing and that we have to change with them. Dow Jones was founded, and thrived on the belief that times change, but principles don’t.”

Read more here. Jim Ottaway also has an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post that can be read here.

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