Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times-Union, writes Saturday why the Bancroft family, the majority owners of Dow Jones & Co., should turn down News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch in his bid to buy the owner of The Wall Street Journal.
Smith wrote, “The answer lies in the fragile relationship between owners of American media and the people they hire to create their products. The vitality of the newspapers and other media you depend upon for news depends to no small degree on their owners’ approach to their properties. The Bancrofts have been good stewards of their important media holdings; there are good reasons to suspect Rupert Murdoch would not be.
“Bah, you say, it’s just trading one set of eyeballs on the bottom line for another. Yes, it’s easy to denounce media companies and, in particular, to claim that Americans are ill served by Big Media. Some folks seem to believe a committee meets daily — in New York, is it, or in Washington? — to set a news agenda, quashing stories that need to be told. Depending upon your point of view, Big Media is intent on either tearing down the American way of life or protecting those with economic power.
“But good media companies assure that precisely the opposite is true. The messages conveyed by media properties in the hands of good owners are shaped in newsrooms filled with fair-minded, aggressive journalists who don’t have to check in with the owners to figure out what’s newsworthy, and who also don’t give a whit what the paper’s editorial page says when deciding what to cover on the front page. That independence from top-level manipulation is fundamental to the journalist’s mission.”
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