Former Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Starkman, who know writes The Audit blog for Columbia Journalism Review, interviewed former Dow Jones executive Jim Ottaway Jr. about the proposed sale of the Journal’s parent company to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Ottaway, who owns 6.2 percent of the company’s stock, remained opposed to selling the company to Murdoch.
Here is an excerpt:
TA: Sure, but the market says News Corp. is worth $70 billion, and Dow Jones is worth $3 billion. End of discussion?
JO: End of discussion if the shareholders of the $3 billion asset are willing to sell out just because they can get a higher price. If they have no commitment to honest and accurate journalism, then the dollar rules. Iâ€™m arguing that thereâ€™s a moral issue here. Rupert Murdochâ€¦I admire his business skills, but I despise his journalistic practices, and even if I admire him, Iâ€™m concerned, and I think the Bancroft family should be concerned, about what kind of a home News Corp. makes for Dow Jones long-term. If we sell the company to Rupert Murdoch at age 76, this is not a long-term strategy. And, not only do we not know who the successor controlling shareholder will be at News Corp., thereâ€™s a question about who would be the … chairman and chief executive. Which of the sons or daughters or wives is going to fight for and win ownership controlâ€” that would be one battlefieldâ€”and another could be over management control. So I donâ€™t look at selling to News Corp. as finding a very good home for Dow Jones. If youâ€™ve worked for a company for thirty-three years, I worry about its future and I worry about its people.
â€¦This business of human assets is a very important thing because Murdochâ€™s theory seems to be, “we can replace you; we donâ€™t need you here.” You donâ€™t keep great writers that way. The best writers at the WSJ have all been approached by other major news companies offering plan b. Theyâ€™re people who are just not going to work for Rupert Murdoch because of the way theyâ€™ll be treated, the lack of independent judgment of what they’re writing about.
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