On Friday, the Dow Jones board gave News Corp. its proposal to safeguard the editorial independence of the Wall Street Journal; News Corp. "reacted coolly," and responded yesterday with "a significantly altered draft." News Corp.'s version offers a 15-member board, with one seat for the Bancrofts and five members appointed independently. The board would have no authority over the hiring or firing of personnel including the WSJs publisher. Nevertheless, the two sides are supposedly close to agreement, according to an insider who stipulates that "a deal between Mr. Murdoch and the Bancrofts' advisers did not mean that either the Dow Jones board or the family, which controls 64 percent of the shareholder votes, would approve the arrangement."
While some suggest that Murdoch understands the prestige of the Journal and is smart enough not to damage it, Jack Shafer doesn't buy it. "[T]he rotten old bastard loves to leverage his editorial assets in service of his businesses."
The Financial Times notes that Dow Jones is not the only property Murdoch is interested in acquiring. Apart from selling some local television stations, Murdoch "is seeking internet acquisitions or a deal involving the MySpace social networking site to increase his stake in the booming online advertising sector, they say." A proposed deal with Yahoo! is just one possibility, but Murdoch needs to move quickly before users abandon MySpace for Facebook. If they're Chinese, it would be a sensible move, since "MySpace China censors user comments on the social-networking site more than is necessary." The decision to capitulate to Chinese authorities is not uncommon for Murdoch; what's more unusual in this case is the involvement of Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng in the venture. "It's the first thing she's been active in," says a senior exec. Oh, yeah, there are also a couple of mammoth profiles in the Times and the New Yorker. We'll discuss them soon.