The Wall Street Journal has a couple of statements from Ottaway family members regarding the proposed sale of Dow Jones to News Corp. The Ottaways merged their newspapers with Dow Jones in 1970…
When my grandfather, James H. Ottaway, Sr. and father, James H. Ottaway, Jr. agreed to merge Ottaway Newspapers with Dow Jones in 1970, it was with an understanding that it was a deal between partners with shared values. They were drawn to a company that advocated free markets and free people, and to a Bancroft family that shared the belief that the news business is a public trust. Treating the news as a public trust was not just an important contribution to our open society, but also made good business sense.
You know of my father’s vehement opposition to a sale of Dow Jones to Murdoch. I am writing as a member of my generation to unequivocally state opposition to the sale of Dow Jones to News Corp. as well.
A deal with Rupert Murdoch would not be a deal between partners with shared values. One of Murdoch’s stated goals of the purchase is to use the Wall Street Journal to shore up his new business cable channel. By Murdoch’s own admission, this so-called business-friendly television channel would shy away from reporting scandals, and concentrate on the more positive business news. I could not help but think of Murdoch’s quote when I read that the Kremlin had ordered a news channel to report at least 50% positive news and treat the U.S. as an enemy.
As an investor, I would be very concerned to live in an era of making investment decisions based on the Murdoch-filtered business information. As a citizen I would be afraid to live in a world where news is solely entertainment, and there is an agenda behind every story I read, watch or hear. There is plenty of evidence that Murdoch does not treat his news services as a public trust. I will invoke just one. According to the Columbia Journalism Review (3-4/98), “several” former Fox employees “complained of ‘management sticking their fingers’ in the writing and editing of stories to cook the facts to make a story more palatable to right-of-center tastes.” Said one: “I’ve worked at a lot of news organizations and never found that kind of manipulation.” Although Ottaway family members have had grave disagreements with the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal from time to time, we never questioned the intellectual honesty or the agenda behind the opinions.