FLASHBACK: WSJ Published 4000-Word Report On Murdoch's Editorial Interference

Blog ››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

In the summer of 2007, as News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch was battling to take over The Wall Street Journal, the paper published a front-page, 4000-word report on Murdoch's long history of interfering with the editorial decisions of his newspapers.

You can read the entire article here.

Some key excerpts from the June 5, 2007 report:

A detailed examination of Mr. Murdoch's half-century career as a journalist and businessman shows that his newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interests of his sprawling media conglomerate, News Corp. In the process, Mr. Murdoch has blurred a line that exists at many other U.S. media companies between business and news sides -- a line intended to keep the business and political interests of owners from influencing the presentation of news.

[...]

Over the years, Mr. Murdoch and his lieutenants have raised hackles for their involvement in the company's news operations. Former top editors at two of his London papers, for example, say he ignored an independent board set up to protect them from his interference, and got involved directly in firings in the 1980s. In Australia, the former editor of one of his top papers complains that a News Corp. executive pushed him for critical coverage of pilots in a strike that was hurting a News Corp. airline investment. In China, former employees say Mr. Murdoch's representatives occasionally pushed reporters to do more upbeat stories, at a time when News Corp. was seeking government help to expand its reach there. The reporters there didn't listen and kept up their often critical coverage.

[...]

Frank Giles, who edited the Sunday Times from 1981 to 1983, says the board "had very little power or will to protect the independence of the papers they were appointed to safeguard."

In his autobiography, "Sundry Times," Mr. Giles wrote that Mr. Murdoch ordered him in January 1982 to replace the paper's magazine editor with an editor from the News of the World, an apparent violation of his promise not to dictate staffing changes. Mr. Giles says he reluctantly made the moves, pretending to the paper's staff they were his idea. He says he didn't appeal to the independent directors because he believed it wouldn't have helped. Mr. Murdoch denies he ordered the change, saying, "Frank's gone nuts."

Fred Emery, a former Times assistant editor, says Mr. Murdoch called him into his office in March 1982 and said he was considering firing Times editor Harold Evans. Mr. Emery says he reminded Mr. Murdoch of his promise that editors couldn't be fired without the independent directors' approval.

"God, you don't take all that seriously, do you?" Mr. Murdoch answered, according to Mr. Emery. Mr. Emery says he replied: "Of course we do."

According to Mr. Emery, Mr. Murdoch laughed and said, "Why wouldn't I give instructions to the Times when I give instructions to editors all around the world?" Mr. Evans was eventually forced out by Mr. Murdoch.

On Friday, Mr. Murdoch said his recollection of the conversation was that Mr. Emery "was extremely critical of Harry." Mr. Emery responds: "Having summoned me to this meeting, it is rather odd that Mr. Murdoch remembers only my criticisms, but not his own statements about the firm promises he had given to the British government" about the papers' editorial independence.

Previously:

The WSJ's Misguided News Corp. Editorial

Bancrofts Regret Selling WSJ To Murdoch

Murdoch's Wall Street Journal Finally Acknowledges Its Publisher's Role In Hacking Scandal

EXODUS: Former WSJ Staffers Speak Out Against Murdoch

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