There’s something fishy about the role of incoming Wall Street Journal publisher Robert Thompson. It’s not just that he’s the former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London (and therefore not someone with experience from the business side of a paper). It’s that he gives Murdoch an interesting loophole to get around the editorial-independence clauses that were set up at the request of the Bancroft family when he took over the Journal. Portfolio’s Jeff Bercovici reports:
Tom Bray, chairman of the five-person committee charged with overseeing compliance of the agreement, notes that it explicitly delineates the authority of the managing editor and editorial page editor but does not do so for the publisher. A change in the publisher’s duties, therefore, lies outside the agreement’s purview.
Since the Journal publisher will now be the final word on editorial matters (Rupert changed the role when he installed Thompson), now the News Corp. founder has access to the edit chain of command again. “I don’t think it’s consistent with the spirit of the agreement,” Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, told Bercovici. “I can’t point to a provision where they’re in violation of the terms, as spelled out in black and white. But whether they’re in violation of the spirit is a fair question.” Whaaa? Rupert is going to try to get around the restrictions on his personal control of the paper? What are you going to tell us next, Roger Clemens uses steroids?
Murdoch Chipping Away at ‘WSJ’ Independence? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]