How long does it take to count the Bancroft family votes on Murdoching the Wall Street Journal? The silence since the alleged today’s 7am deadline passed might suggest it was a not-quite-deadline despite the apparent rejection of Rupert’s Dow Jones bid.

A News Corp spokesman is being quoted everywhere as saying it’s highly unlikely Murdoch will proceed with the bid without more support from the controlling family – but you never know if such spokesmen mean what they say.

And talking of spinning for News Corp’s commercial interests, there’s an insightful story in the current Private Eye that shows how wise Murdoch hacks are prepared to use their keyboards in the service.

The Eye recounts the valiant efforts of Times editor Robert Thomson to help his master land the Dow Jones prize. It’s alleged that Aussie Thomson is in the running to take the helm of the WSJ should the bid succeed. Reports the PE:

He (Thomson) recently sent a letter to Jim Ottaway, who controls a large block of shares in the WSJ’s parent company, Dow Jones, and who is resisting the Murdoch bid because he fears the newspaper’s coverage of China will be jeopardised by the Digger’s kowtowing to Beijing.

“I was somewhat disconcerted to read your thoughts bout News Corp’s coverage of China and the world in general,” Thomson wrote, “which were clearly a challenge to the integrity of the journalists at the Times and to me personally. As a Beijing correspondent, I was in Tiananmen Square on the night of the massacre in 1989 and was thrown out of Tibet by heavy-handed Chinese officials, so the explicit allegation that we are pandering to the Communist Party came as rather a surprise.”

One wonders if this might convey the impression that Thomson of The Times was a fearless reporter for News Corp on the frontline of China’s embarrassments. If so, the impression would be false. As the Eye explains (and has been confirmed by others):

This is somewhat disingenuous. Thomson was indeed a Beijing correspondent in 1989, but not for Rupert Murdoch. He worked for the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Times… this was long before he joined the Murdoch empire – and before he married the daughter of a general of the People’s Liberation Army in a splendid ceremony at Beijing’s Summer Palace.

Oh well, you can’t blame a Murdoch editor for trying. As Rupert has publicly said, he doesn’t have to tell them what to write.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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