Don't Mess With My Journal, Rupert

Like most of my Foolish friends, I recognize that change is a fact of life, especially for the world of investments. And so, I'm able to come to grips with the possibility that Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) may ultimately acquire Dow Jones (NYSE: DJ  ) , and The Wall Street Journal. Unless ...

Unless, that is, the acquisition were to result in a reduction in the quality of that wonderful financial newspaper. After all, the Journal is more important to the start of my day than that first cup of coffee. Probably like you, I am concerned that a change in Dow Jones' ownership could somehow diminish the Journal's long-standing quality.

You're aware of a meeting between representatives of the Dow Jones' controlling Bancroft family earlier this week. And while little is known about the substance of the meeting, the main sticking point for acceptance of Rupert's offer appears to be one of guarding the Journal's news and editorial operations from Murdoch's meddling.

The day after the meeting, the Journal ran a long and thoroughly researched article describing Murdoch's penchant for involving himself in the editorial coverage of his properties. As the article said, "A detailed examination of Mr. Murdoch's half-century career as a journalist and businessman shows that his newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interests of his sprawling media conglomerate ..."

Murdoch apparently has suggested the formation of a board of editors -- much like he has used with his London newspapers -- that would serve as a buffer between his own meddlesome tendencies and the Journal's coverage. But the Journal notes that former top editors at two of those papers claim he ignored the very "board set up to protect them from his interference ..."

Now, having scoured that lengthy article and read all I could about Murdoch, it's still tough to predict whether the paper's reporters and editors would be hindered by his looming presence or outright directives. Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal has enjoyed a certain elevated status among investors since at least the early days of the 20th century.

As such, if ownership of Dow Jones and the Journal does pass to News Corp., I hope Murdoch will agree in advance to an electric fence between himself and the Journal's news operation. To have one man's ego affect one of the financial world's institutions would be nothing short of reprehensible. 

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool does have a disclosure policy.


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