According to insider US press blog The Horse’s Mouth:
The pushback from the Wall Street Journal‘s journalists against Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over the paper is growing more and more intense.
Here’s the latest: The paper’s China-based reporters — whose coverage won a Pulitzer this year — have now sent a powerful letter to three key members of the Bancroft family, the Dow Jones Company’s controlling shareholder. The letter — to family members Leslie Hill, Elizabeth Steele and Christopher Bancroft, and to trustee Michael Elefante, all of whom are on Dow Jones’ board — warns that Murdoch could use the Journal as a tool to advance his business interests in China.
I’ve obtained a copy of the letter:
May 10, 2007
We are correspondents who report from China for The Wall Street Journal, and we are writing to urge you to stand by the Bancroft family’s courageous and principled decision to reject News Corp.’s offer to acquire Dow Jones & Co.
There are only a handful of news organizations anywhere with the resources and the integrity to pursue the truth in matters of national and even global importance. Thanks to your family’s committed stewardship, the Journal is at the head of this dwindling group.
Our China team won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting this year for a series of stories detailing the consequences of China‘s unbridled pursuit of capitalism – for China and for the rest of the world. Many of those stories shed an unflattering light on the government and business interests.
The prize is a reflection of the Journal’s substantial investment in covering what is perhaps the biggest economic, business and political story of our time: how China‘s embrace of markets and its growing global role are reshaping the world we live in. It is an important example of the coverage that we fear would suffer if News Corp. takes control.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has a well-documented history of making editorial decisions in order to advance his business interests in China and, indeed, of sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal or political aims.
Mr. Murdoch’s approach is completely at odds with that taken by your own family, whose unwavering support of ethical journalism has made the Journal the trusted news source it is. It is fair to ask how News Corp. would change the Journal’s coverage.
In 2001, for example, our colleague Ian Johnson shared the Pulitzer for international reporting for his articles about the Chinese government’s sometimes brutal suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Under Mr. Murdoch, these articles might never have seen the light of day. That year, Mr. Murdoch’s son, James, the CEO of British Sky Broadcasting, delivered a speech in California echoing the line of the Chinese government in terming Falun Gong a “dangerous” and “apocalyptic cult,” which “clearly does not have the success of China at heart.”
Newspaper accounts of the speech say that James Murdoch criticized the Western media for negative coverage of human-rights issues in China, concluding that “these destabilizing forces today are very, very dangerous for the Chinese government.”
We believe that it is important for all of us – from reporters and editors to you, the owners of the company – to keep constantly in mind the fact that the Journal is an institution that plays a critical role in civic life. We take pride in knowing that Journal readers trust us to uphold these principles, even in the face of risks.
Your family established and is now entrusted with a unique and important institution. Safeguarding it is a responsibility that you have fulfilled admirably for decades. Yours is the kind of stewardship journalists on the ground in China will require in the years to come if they are to accurately frame one of the world’s most critical news stories. We have enormous respect for your continued willingness to defend the journalistic standards so important to all of us.
Mei F. Fong
James T. Areddy
Jason S.L. Leow
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch has sent his own letter to members of the Bancroft Family, concerning his $5 billion offer for Dow Jones & Co.
May 11, 2007
The Members of the Bancroft Family
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
1 World Financial Center
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please allow me the opportunity with this letter to address more fully why News Corporation would be an ideal partner for Dow Jones, and why we are so enthusiastic about a potential combination. As I stated to you in my letter of April 26th, nothing is more imperative than demonstrating that News Corporation would be dedicated to building upon the more than 100-year heritage of your great Company.
We are disappointed, as I imagine you are, that the details of our proposal and the discussion of the merits of a potential combination have become a matter of public debate. In the weeks since our proposal was made public on Tuesday, May 1st, there has been much written about a potential combination and News Corporation’s intentions. I would like to express my regret if you have been placed in an uncomfortable position by the events of the past week.
Much has been written about me, my family and our company, some flattering, some not; some accurate, most not. Please let me assure you that, first and foremost, I am a newspaper man. I don’t apologize for the fact that I have always had strong opinions and strong ideas about newspapers; but I have also always respected the independence and integrity of the news organizations with which I am associated.
Quite simply, the businesses of Dow Jones, and in particular The Wall Street Journal, represent American journalism at its best. Your record of journalistic independence and integrity is second to none. Any interference — or even hint of interference — would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something I am unwilling to countenance. Apart from breaching the public’s trust, it would simply be bad business.
We at News Corporation know that the credit for building such an enterprise goes to the members of the family, a strong and committed Board and management team, and an editorial and reporting staff of the highest caliber. Our interest in Dow Jones comes from an appreciation of this tradition, one that runs in my family as well. My father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was himself a celebrated journalist, best known for uncovering the British debacle at Gallipoli in 1915. Upon his untimely death in 1953, I returned to Australia to go into the family business and subsequently expanded it to many newspaper titles over the next five decades. As a father myself, nothing makes me more proud than to see that my own children have inherited the passion that my father nurtured in me. They share with me a faith in the positive role that journalists play in society and in the future of newspapers to inform, educate and engage.
With this heritage in mind, I am pleased to outline my vision for what News Corporation brings to a potential combination. At News Corporation, we believe that investment in people, brands and technology are critical to maintaining a competitive edge and relevance with today’s consumer. In fiscal year 2007 alone, we will invest nearly $1.3 billion in capital projects, and considerably more than that in other growth and expansion initiatives. A large portion of this is allocated to the modernization of our UK newspaper facilities. We believe that News Corporation could bring substantial resources to bear in a combined enterprise, providing the additional capital and scale that will preserve Dow Jones’ leadership and growth for generations to come. We have considered below a number of potential avenues for further investment behind the Dow Jones family of businesses:
• Commit to continue to promote journalistic integrity, at Dow Jones and in the world
Maintaining the heritage of independence and journalistic integrity of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones’ other publications would be of utmost importance to me and to News Corporation.
• Establish an independent, autonomous editorial board exactly along the lines of what was established at The Times of London. Creating such a Board would ensure that (1) both the Editor and the Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal would not be appointed or dismissed without the approval of the majority of the directors of the Board; and (2) ensure that any dispute between management and editors is properly arbitrated by the Board.
• Increase funding and support for the Dow Jones Foundation to continue to promote journalism standards and press freedom around the world.
• Commit to ongoing involvement of the family in the combined business of Dow Jones and News Corporation
I would appoint a member of the Family to the Board of News Corporation
• The family has been an excellent steward of Dow Jones for many generations.
• I would hope that including a family member on the Board would help alleviate any concerns about maintaining journalistic integrity and ensure good communication between the family and News Corporation going forward.
• Leverage News Corp’s International Presence and Expertise to Expand Reach of Dow Jones’ brands in under-served markets
News Corporation would leverage its significant global resources and platforms to drive international growth and expansion of the Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal brands.
• Expand where appropriate Dow Jones’ editorial presence in emerging Asian markets, including India and China.
• Utilize News Corp’s distribution platforms in Asia and Europe to better promote and market Dow Jones’ products and services.
• In Europe, News Corporation has such a large presence that anything less than a leading market share for The Journal would be a disappointment.
• Reach a broader domestic audience by expanding the content base
In the U.S., where Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal already have a strong heritage and consistent success, we would also make necessary investments to grow the business, particularly at The Journal’s Washington, DC bureau.
• Invest in digital media and utilize News Corporation’s capabilities to enhance value
Dow Jones is already a leader in content and digital media with three of the world’s leading paid-subscriber financial news sites. We would enthusiastically build upon this success by leveraging the scale we have built in digital media.
• Honor the tradition of partnership for Dow Jones’ greatest asset, its people
I would not have considered an offer without the full confidence and knowledge that Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal are served by the most dedicated and accomplished team of journalists, editors, management and other employees of any media organization.
• Retaining this team would be a key priority for News Corporation.
• We would also invest in the The Journal’s headquarters to ensure it remains a state-of-the-art facility that promotes and encourages easy access between management, editors and reporters.
I understand the magnitude of the decision you are facing. I hope you find our proposal an indication of the great hope I have for Dow Jones’ future. I trust you have a better understanding of my commitment to preserving and building upon your legacy.
I would welcome an opportunity to meet with members of the family, the Board, management, and the newsroom to review our proposal in further detail. Thank you for your consideration.