Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine decided to can the profile it had commissioned on Wendi Deng, Chinese-born wife of Rupert Murdoch, as Crikey reported on Friday 20 April.
The story, a vast 10,000-word profile that took writer Eric Ellis three months of research across the world, was killed by the magazine’s editor, Judith Whelan … or someone above her.
Almost two weeks later, the reasons for the cancellation remain murky. While Ellis has apparently had no shortage of offers from other publications, Crikey understands that Fairfax isn’t set to back down from its hardline position.
In-house at The SMH and The Age, employees are preparing to voice their concerns about the slaying of Wendi, particularly given her husband’s 7.5% share in Fairfax. The Friends of Fairfax group and The Age‘s Independence Committee will both seek answers over the next couple of days as to why the article was canned.
While we wait for the full Deng article to pop up elsewhere, Crikey today exclusively unveils some of the tidbits that Good Weekend thought too hot to publish:
Early life. She was tall…and good at volleyball:
Ellis writes: The eldest of three and already well on her way to her statuesque 1.8m, Coach Wang played her in attack in his volleyball squad. “She was tall, and good at spiking”, he reveals … “She was a competent player but not of a standard to play in the national or even provincial team … After she went to America, she wrote and asked me to write her a reference to prove that she has played volleyball before.”…
I ask best friend Li if Wendi ever confided her ambitions to her. Did she want to be a doctor? A lawyer? … “At the time we were so pure-minded, we had none of these ideas”, she says. “She always wanted to go to America and now she has realised that. She loves children, she wanted to have a lot of children.'”…
From her small primary school on Shao Hua Street, known for nurturing ping-pong skills, Wendi went to the Xuzhou No.1 Middle School, where she was regarded as a typical student of average-upper ability, melding into the 3,000 of any given school year…
Wendi’s favourite food was prawns … “She also liked chocolate”, says a friend…
“She was tall and very beautiful, somewhat extroverted, quite sociable [says Tutor Zeng from Ghangzhou Medical College where Deng attended before dropping out] “Her beauty is of a special flavour. There were a lot of beauties in that group”.
That Wall Street Journal article:
Much of the salacious content in Ellis’s piece rakes over The Wall Street Journal article from 2000. Ellis chats with Joyce Hinton, formerly Cherry, whose husband had an affair with Deng while she was living with them in Los Angeles, as revealed in the WSJ. Her daughter thinks Deng is “a witch”, writes Ellis, while Hinton is reluctant to talk about the past, noting “She had a goal and she got there…Surely she’s got enough? You think she would’ve accomplished her goal by now?”
Trying to interview Wendi — corresponding with News Ltd:
Ellis emails News Corp’s PR officer Andrew Butcher requesting an interview with Wendi. The response comes through: “Jesus… you’re scaring the sh-t out of me with this serious letter. Please don’t treat me like a corporate flak … there is no extensive business story to tell about Wendi — her recent interest has been solely focused on MySpace potentially doing something in China. She’s not an executive at the company, doesn’t fulfill an executive role, and doesn’t intend to become an executive. Her primary role is as a great mum to two cute kids.”
Wendi as gung-ho intern at Star TV in Hong Kong:
Ellis writes: A Star office colleague remembers Wendi’s first week in May 1996, when she set about introducing herself to the mostly male, mostly expatriate Australian executive staff. “We were all there to learn, learn, learn, to suck in knowledge but Wendi would say “I’m going to meet that guy”, the colleague recalls. “So she would waltz in to someone important’s office unannounced and exclaim ‘Hello, I’m Wendi, I’m the intern … ummm, who are you?'”
“It was excruciating, it made some people uncomfortable but she would get away with it, in fact she perfected it. Over time I came to understand her whole approach… Her English was limited so what was she going to do with three binders on, say, the ins and outs of Japanese TV foreign ownership regulations. She was as boot-strapped as they come.”…
[For important meetings] … sometimes she’d write her own [paperwork] and sometimes, one executive recalls, she would schmooze off colleagues, playing up the unworldly mainlander making her way. “She took advantage of people’s naivete and niceness”, the executive says. “And she totally got credit for it. She presents this stuff to the bosses, and her charming self, and then she starts jetting off. If Rupert fell in love with her because of her Excel spreadsheet business plans, then he should have married me.”