Wall Street Journal China bureau to Murdoch: stay away!

Only Danwei loves you Rupe

Rupert Murdoch's recent $5 billion bid to buy Dow Jones is causing some discomfort at the China bureau of that company's subsidiary The Wall Street Journal. The American muckraking blog Talking Points Memo has the scoop:

The paper's China-based reporters -- whose coverage won a Pulitzer this year -- have now sent a powerful letter to three key members of the Bancroft family, the Dow Jones Company's controlling shareholder. The letter -- to family members Leslie Hill, Elizabeth Steele and Christopher Bancroft, and to trustee Michael Elefante, all of whom are on Dow Jones' board -- warns that Murdoch could use the Journal as a tool to advance his business interests in China.

Danwei has verified that the letter is genuine. You can read the whole thing at the bottom of this article.

In other Murdoch - Dow Jones news, the editor of The Times of London (owned by News Corp) has defended his newspaper's China coverage as a rebuttal to Dow Jones shareholder James H. Ottaway Jr. who criticized News Corp.'s coverage of the Middle Kingdom. The letter is reproduced on the Wall Street Journal's website here, with a short article about it here.

Other relevant articles:
• Nieman Watchdog: Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson on why the Bancrofts should turn down Murdoch
• Slate: Eight More Reasons To Distrust Murdoch
• Danwei: Aussie newspaper kills story about Rupert Murdoch's wife

The letter from the Journal's China bureau is below:

May 10, 2007

We are correspondents who report from China for The Wall Street Journal, and we are writing to urge you to stand by the Bancroft family's courageous and principled decision to reject News Corp.’s offer to acquire Dow Jones & Co.

There are only a handful of news organizations anywhere with the resources and the integrity to pursue the truth in matters of national and even global importance. Thanks to your family’s committed stewardship, the Journal is at the head of this dwindling group.

Our China team won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting this year for a series of stories detailing the consequences of China‘s unbridled pursuit of capitalism – for China and for the rest of the world. Many of those stories shed an unflattering light on the government and business interests.

The prize is a reflection of the Journal’s substantial investment in covering what is perhaps the biggest economic, business and political story of our time: how China‘s embrace of markets and its growing global role are reshaping the world we live in. It is an important example of the coverage that we fear would suffer if News Corp. takes control.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has a well-documented history of making editorial decisions in order to advance his business interests in China and, indeed, of sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal or political aims.

Mr. Murdoch’s approach is completely at odds with that taken by your own family, whose unwavering support of ethical journalism has made the Journal the trusted news source it is. It is fair to ask how News Corp. would change the Journal’s coverage.

In 2001, for example, our colleague Ian Johnson shared the Pulitzer for international reporting for his articles about the Chinese government’s sometimes brutal suppression of the Fаlun Gong spiritual movement.

Under Mr. Murdoch, these articles might never have seen the light of day. That year, Mr. Murdoch’s son, James, the CEO of British Sky Broadcasting, delivered a speech in California echoing the line of the Chinese government in terming Fаlun Gong a “dangerous” and “apocalyptic cult,” which “clearly does not have the success of China at heart.”

Newspaper accounts of the speech say that James Murdoch criticized the Western media for negative coverage of human-rights issues in China, concluding that "these destabilizing forces today are very, very dangerous for the Chinese government.”

We believe that it is important for all of us – from reporters and editors to you, the owners of the company – to keep constantly in mind the fact that the Journal is an institution that plays a critical role in civic life. We take pride in knowing that Journal readers trust us to uphold these principles, even in the face of risks.

Your family established and is now entrusted with a unique and important institution. Safeguarding it is a responsibility that you have fulfilled admirably for decades. Yours is the kind of stewardship journalists on the ground in China will require in the years to come if they are to accurately frame one of the world’s most critical news stories. We have enormous respect for your continued willingness to defend the journalistic standards so important to all of us.


Gordon Fairclough
Mei F. Fong
James T. Areddy
Shai Oster
Jane Spencer
Andrew Batson
Jason S.L. Leow

There are currently 7 Comments for Wall Street Journal China bureau to Murdoch: stay away!.

Comments on Wall Street Journal China bureau to Murdoch: stay away!

I'm intrigued about just how exactly Murdoch will "advance his business interests in China."

Will the government let him publish a newspaper? No
Will the government let him broadcast TV news? No

I'm sure the CPC media chiefs are just as aware of the duplicitous nature of Murdoch as the editors and reporters of the Wall Street Journal - a few anti FG comments (and let's face it, that's one wacky organization) at a conference aren't going to make the slightest bit of difference.

This is hyperbolic stuff from these journalists.

Generally, it would seem, the ones who most protest the coming of Murdoch are the ones with most reason to fear.

Charlie's got it wrong. By saying what he did about FLG, James Murdoch clearly showed that the Murdoch's only care about making money, and are prepared to immorally kiss arse to do so. Spiking a story here and there would be even easier.

People who care about China and who follow its development through the media (most of us), should take careful heed of what these reporters said, and kudos to them for coming out with it.

What does danwei think? Given that RM is his no. 1 hero and the compelling case the wsj china reporters make, i'd like to hear his personal views.
personally, i think rm is pretty cool; fox news is funny, the simpsons is funny. you might not agree with his politics but he is at least frank about it. but this aside, it would indeed be a shame if an important part of the coverage of the amazing china story was comprimised.

yes charlie, everyone knows that flg are wackos but it is not the point


Hey if you copy and paste his picture onto the magazines in the post above this I think you'd get more comments in that post!

Isn't the nature of business to make $$$$$$$$$$$$$ ?
Is the generally the bottom line?

"Charlie's got it wrong. By saying ... Murdoch's only care about making money, and are prepared to immorally kiss arse to do so."

Isn't this what every business in china is doing?
If they didn't "kiss arse" they wouldn't do business.

From France (the Cannes festival, etc.)...

Thanks Danwei, it just gave me a great idea for a novel and/or a film...

First true facts, the PRC in May 2007 has gigantic and amazingly fast growing foreign reserves in USD, reaching recently USD 1,200 trillion (+130 billion in only a quarter ! PRC becomes the world number one concerning foreign USD reserves, ahead of Japan...)

So the PRC authorities plan a fund of USD 300 billion for diversifying their investments, away from the usual US Treasury securities, and the whole financial world is rather anxious wondering what will happen with this money, as the PRC may buy almost everything...

The gnomes of Zhongnanhai (that's where the novel starts -financial gnomes were in Zurich in the past-), with the help of a famous Publicity Department, decide to use this money to control the media of the world; in the role of the "Trojan horse" ...the infamous Rupert, world expert (credibility test: there were several similar true stories in fact in the 90's, Beijing calling friendly billionaires, in Asia but also in Europe, in order to buy various Hong Kong media outlets...).

Could make a good story really -there is a sexy part too, all the ingredients (Gong Li is Wendi...)-. Great timing for marketing, with previews and press-kits distributed in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. For the ones who steal my idea (including in Zhongnanhai and/or in the Publicity Department, and/or at Fox's), see you next year, at the Cannes festival...

(time to go back to my Ricard on the beach now guys, but the weather is not too good right now, today, on the Croisette -what's happening with this global warming ?-).

(In fact I already wrote a novel on a rather similar subject, 25 years ago; a nice little Chinese girl -she had swam to Hong Kong in the 70's-, now in a trading room in Wall Street -just like where I had worked myself- speculating on the booming silver market and nasty speculators from Dallas -true facts-, a villa in Baleares (Formentera), a crazy baron, a cute boyfriend... -... I was then a very bored kid, imprisoned in Wuhan; and it was often raining, on the Donghou lake...).

A look at RM's marriage history tells all. Macchiavellian move. Enough said.

Journalists, those who have believes that their jobs will make it a better world, are a special type of human being. They are richest people in the spiritual world but they still have to live in the real world where power and money basically predominate everyone.
They work mainly for a dream. They stand up against authorities who have political power or money and they take up the cudgels for the weak, the poor and those who can not fight for themselves.

I have the same believe and I have to show my highest respect to those WSJ China correspondents. As a Chinese and as a journalist, I constantly feel vulnerable and depressed in that Chinese media are still more or less government propaganda tools. It is so hard to fight against the mainstream and to sacrifice everything you have just for a dream.

In this sense, I'm standing by those reporters though Murdoch has already got Dow Jones anyway. And, good or bad Murdoch will affect editorial impartiality and media, China has a long way to go to achieve the freedom of expression... a long long way.

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