So how much exactly does the Bancroft family dislike, distrust, and generally feel icky about Rupert Murdoch? Last week the family’s lawyers drafted a proposal to protect the paper’s editorial independence in the event of a sale, and the family rejected it as insufficiently strong. Tim Rutten at the L.A. Times got his hands on the plan, which he calls “an extraordinary document — unusual in the severity of its prescriptions; stunning in its unspoken assumption of Murdoch’s reflexive bad faith.” So what were the proposals? A few statements of principle — “the clear separation of news and opinion,” “the freedom to report the news free from fear or favor and to express opinions critical of governmental agencies, interest groups, management, customers and others with a stake in the success of the company,” and the like — combined with a board-of-directors subcommittee called the “Special Committee on Editorial and Journalistic Independence and Integrity,” basically charged with protecting those principles.
The special committee gets jurisdiction of the hiring and firing, and changes in responsibilities or compensation, of the paper’s “essential journalistic officers,” and the special committee gets final, binding say on the issues it’s responsible for. Oh, and a new owner wouldn’t be allowed to lay off employees or cut their pay or benefits for two years after the deal is done. So, to recap, it’s a plan that would keep Murdoch from hiring, firing, or changing the duties of his top editors, overruling the special committee on journalistic issues, or laying off anyone for two years. And the Bancrofts — not Murdoch, but the Bancrofts — rejected the plan as not good enough. Maybe this deal actually won’t happen?