Wall Street Journal sat on Murdoch bid scoop

Editors at the Wall Street Journal knew at least a week before the news broke that Rupert Murdoch was making a $5 billion bid for their paper. But they didn’t report it.

The New York Times, making the revelation, says it is the sort of story the WSJ would normally pursue aggressively.

The American family that owns Dow Jones – and therefore The Wall Street Journal – is under mounting pressure to reject Rupert Murdoch’s offer to buy the company for $5 billion.

Some is from the union that represents workers at the WSJ. Others from directors of the company and former executives of Dow Jones who warn that a takeover by Murdoch would imperil the “unique news quality and integrity” of the WSJ and other Dow Jones publications.

One former director even went so far as to point out that Murdoch comes from “very different traditions and editorial practices”, presumably referring to his Australian and Fleet Street background.

But would a Murdoch take-over of the WSJ be such a black day for American journalism? Some think not. Lately the WSJ, like most American newspapers, has suffered an attrition. It’s smaller than it used to be. Its bureaus around the world have been cut back. The attritions it is suggested will only get worse.

In fact Murdoch has made it clear that $5,000 million is not the total of his possible investment. In an interview with the New York Times he talked enthusiastically about opening new bureaus and expanding others. He wants to halt the Journal’s diminishing prestige. He would, he said, invest heavily in Europe and Asia. In fact he admitted, although he is 76, he is spoiling for a fight with the Financial Times – the only other big financial newspaper he has ever admitted aspiring to own.

Murdoch has also assured that if his offer is accepted he won’t be descending on the company with a “bunch of cost-cutters” with orders to “slash and burn.” But did add that he wouldn’t promise it would be a holiday camp for everyone.

Murdoch took time off from the financial negotiations to hold a seminar in California for 50 of his top executives – the subject: The Internet and its future, which is also at the moment an important topic to Murdoch executives, both in the US, Europe and Australia.

Representative from all three regions spent the weekend in Carmel in Northern California where Murdoch has a ranch.

This year’s get together, according to visitors, was a much more intimate meeting than last year’s attended by more than 100 News Corp executives at which Tony Blair, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Gore were among the speakers.

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