Let Murdoch Be Murdoch: Abolish the powerless Wall Street Journal Special Committee.

Jack Shafer – Slate

Copyright Slate
April 30, 2008
The “Special Committee” assigned to shield the Wall Street Journal’s editorial independence from the meddling of new owner Rupert Murdoch was reduced to a set of high-paid flunkies last week as the media mogul squeezed Journal Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli out of his job without consulting them.
The committee—composed of Louis Boccardi, Thomas Bray, Jennifer Dunn, Jack Fuller, and Nicholas Negroponte—was created as a condition of the sale of the Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones & Co., to Murdoch’s News Corp. The Bancroft family, which controlled Dow Jones, feared that having purchased the newspaper, the rotten old bastard would want to exercise the prerogatives of ownership and start making radical changes.
Hence the committee, given explicit “rights of approval” over the hiring and firing of three key Dow Jones positions—the managing editor and the editorial page editor of the Journal, and the managing editor of Dow Jones Newswires. But those familiar with Murdoch’s legacy knew that he would soon shirk his part of the bargain.
On this point, Murdoch never disappoints. For instance, when he bought the Times of London in 1981, he promised new editor Harold Evans editorial independence. He started breaking his promises almost immediately, and when Evans confronted him, Murdoch allegedly said, “They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.” As Evans writes of Murdoch in his 1984 book, Good Times, Bad Times, he’s like “the philanderer who convinces each new girl that she’s the one who’ll change him.”
Like Brauchli, Evans had a committee “protecting” him. This one, established at government insistence, required a majority vote in the event that Murdoch wanted to sack an editor. But when Murdoch wanted Evans gone, he performed the same end run that just eliminated Brauchli—a big shove and a settlement agreement.
The denutted Dow Jones Special Committee issued its wimpy statement yesterday, vowing that it “intends to exercise fully its role in the approval of a successor managing editor and to take the steps necessary to prevent a repeat of the process it has just been through.” What they meant to say was, We’re each paid $100,000 annually, a lot of money for very little work, so if Rupert wants to drive by and hose us down with a swift, hard piss again, just make sure the checks clear.
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