“Constructive” was the word coming out of yesterday’s meeting between Rupert Murdoch and the Bancroft family. In such cases, “constructive” usually means the sides haven’t agreed on a single thing but will talk again. We know that the conversation ran far longer than expected, about four hours (good news for Murdoch), and stalled over the issue of editorial independence (good news for wary Wall Street Journal writers). See, the Bancrofts want the Journal’s staff to report to a family-run board completely outside the News Corp. structure. Murdoch finds the idea unworkable and counterproposed an “independent” governing board like the one he set up for the London Times when he bought it in 1981. Of course, upon buying the Times, Rupe wasted no time before muscling out its editor, board or no board.
So there we are: Murdoch wants the biggest business pulpit in the United States, and the Bancrofts want assurances of editorial freedom. (Today’s Wall Street Journal does an unsurprisingly terrific job of compiling a long litany of Murdoch’s newsroom meddling.) Are these irreconcilable cross-purposes? Of course not: Dow Jones stock is already trading 16 cents above Murdoch’s offer price of $60 per share, which means Wall Street is considering the deal pretty much a fait accompli.