14 May 2007

Murdoch's WSJ Would Bolster Chinese Government Repression

As the Bancroft family meets to consider accepting Murdoch's WSJ offer, WSJ's Pulitzer-winning journalists in China beg them to say no:
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.


Gordon Fairclough
Mei F. Fong
James T. Areddy
Shai Oster
Jane Spencer
Andrew Batson
Jason S.L. Leow
Meanwhile, Murdoch has been penning a few letters of his own. He wrote this one to the Bancroft family a few days ago:
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....

[yadda, yadda]

... 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.

Yours sincerely,
Rupert Murdoch
Then Murdoch penned another letter to the WSJ board:
We have a history of long stewardship of great newspapers (for instance, "The Times", "The Sunday Times" and "The Australian'). I always see my role as supporting the editors and publishers of these newspapers.

We think we would be the ideal partner to grow and expand your company, as well as protect such a vital public trust.

Unfortunately, I have never had the privilege of meeting the Bancroft family; nor have they had the opportunity to meet me, my family, or senior editors. Such a meeting would at least given them a better understanding and clear up many possible misconceptions.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass on to the family (or their representatives) my request for such a meeting, since there is so much at stake for all concerned.
It's being widely reported toiday that Murdoch is offering the Bancroft family a seat on the WSJ board, and offering personal guarantees of independence. The problem for Murdoch is that he has no credibility left. His record speaks for itself. He is just hoping that the Bancrofts are as stupid and unethical as their editorial pages often indicate.

It's the same thing for PM John Howard, of course: the man cannot even buy a vote today. He's just hoping the Australian public are as stupid and unethical as previous elections indicate.