When Rupert Murdoch bought Dow Jones in December, he agreed to not replace the editor of The Wall Street Journal without the approval of a special “editorial integrity” committee. He then promptly installed a loyalist, Robert Thomson, as publisher, and gave him ultimate editorial authority. Marcus Brauchli, the paper’s nominal top editor, resigned after four months. Thomson was named to replace him, with the committee’s consent. Former Detroit News editorial-page editor Thomas Bray chairs the committee, and he spoke to Jesse Oxfeld from his vacation home in Bozeman, Montana.
Thomson was initially installed as publisher but functioned as editorial overlord. Wasn’t that just an end run around the committee?
Potentially, yes. But his role was described as basically head of the editorial product for all of Dow Jones, which includes for instance Barron’s, which is not covered by the agreement at all. And Dow Jones has always had a publisher, and the publisher has always, to one degree or another, had an influence on—
But Thomson’s duties were not traditional newspaper-publisher duties.
Well, those shifted, even at Dow Jones. How you set that system up, it varies at a lot of newspapers.
The committee has said that it was frustrated with how Brauchli’s departure was handled, and Thomson’s involvement in that. But hasn’t the committee now merely signed off on a fait accompli?
That did trouble us. But you have to weigh that against other factors, including Robert’s fairly long record as a distinguished editor at various publications, including working for Murdoch as head of the Times of London.
How many times has the committee met in the almost six months since the purchase was completed?
We have regular, quarterly meetings. And we do a fair amount of conference calling and so on, and those count as meetings, too.
So the committee members are working hard throughout the year to earn that $100,000 salary?
I’ll let you draw your own conclusion about that.