Here’s a situation that News Corp CEO Robert Thomson and CFO Bedi Singh won’t want to discuss when they hold their post-quarterly results briefing with analysts at 9am Friday: all is not well among staff at The Wall Street Journal — the Murdochs’ key US paper. One report says the WSJ’s staff are very unhappy with what they see as management’s decision to run “soft” in its coverage of Donald Trump and his scatty administration, according to one media report, while a second report underlines the reason for that “soft” coverage: the increasingly close ties between the Murdoch family and the Trump family.

The first report on the Politico website revealed for the first time the growing unhappiness among staff at the “soft”coverage of the President. The report says Journal editor-in-chief Gerald Baker has been forced to call “a town hall meeting” of staff for next Monday night, Australian time, to address the concerns and try to head off any eruption.

The second (and more fascinating) report in the Financial Times has, for the first time, revealed just how close the Murdoch and Trump families are — on top of the close media relations between Murdoch, News Corp papers, Fox News, Trump. This closeness will be the immovable object that WSJ staff run up against in voicing their discontent with the way the paper has been covering Trump.

“Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was a trustee for a large bloc of shares in 21st Century Fox and News Corp that belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s two youngest daughters, underscoring the close ties between the US president’s family and the mogul behind the Fox News Channel.”

“The president’s daughter was a trustee of Grace and Chloe Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s children by his ex-wife Wendi Deng, during the campaign. The two girls, aged 15 and 13, hold shares worth close to a combined $300m in the two media groups, which are controlled by Mr Murdoch and his family, and an additional interest in Murdoch companies worth more than $2bn.”

Given that background, the “soft” coverage claimed by Journal staff is no surprise. Not helping Baker has been the lingering wounds from the cost cutting and sackings late last year as the News Corp management rushed to staunch a sudden slide in print ad revenues in the paper and weak digital performance. Around 100 staff from all parts of the paper were made redundant, the paper’s look and structure revamped, sections slashed, merged or dropped and staff told to write shorter stories. Politico (and a couple of other media websites) have indicated the cost cutting left bad blood inside the Journal newsroom and has helped fan the belief that the editor in chief and management are ’soft’ on Trump

And as for News Corp’s quarterly results, well, they are not expected to be encouraging, with a further fall in revenue expected by analysts, especially in the newspapers, with the Australian pay TV businesses also expected to be weak. The market expects another loss or low profit from the Murdoch company’s second company, and one that will depend heavily on its Australian and US property websites. — Glenn Dyer



Peter Fray

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