Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch finally got his audience with the reclusive, mixed-message-sending Bancroft family, meeting over afternoon tea in a safe setting that allowed the Bancrofts to not feel all hassled if they didn't want to put out. The practical upshot is that no firm agreements were made, the key sticking point being the Bancroft's request that the Wall Street Journal be shielded from Murdoch's interference -- a concession Murdoch is reportedly not willing to make. Despite the divide, however, nobody's closing the door on the deal just yet: the two parties are open to another sit-down, though the Bancrofts didn't want to do so right away, preferring to engage in some phone negotiations before a second date. Don't want to seem desperate, you know?If the Murdoch-Bancroft summit inspired any activity, it was from the camp of Murdoch's detractors. Today, The Wall Street Journal itself managed to considerably ratchet up the tone of their displeasure, in spite of the fact that they've got little new to say about their erstwhile suitor. The money shot is this quote:
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.
Also, Jack Shafer, writing for Slate has basically gone from really, really, really opposing the Murdoch bid to really, really, really, really opposing it. That's now up to four "reallys," one of them italicized. If this plays out another week, look for Shafer's opposition to escalate to the use of smallcaps, underlined text, and, perhaps, the use of Copperplate Gothic Bold fonts.
Yet well he should continue to beat the anti-Murdoch drum, because at long last, the dire straits of the Dow has brought forth a potential savior in the form of Los Angeles mogul Ron Burkle, who has "joined a union representing Dow Jones...employees to try to formulate a counter-offer" to the Murdoch bid. The union has also invited Warren Buffet to be a part of this last-ditch Speed Date To Save Western Civilization, but he has thus far been cool on the prospects of taking on the job. Besides, the timing may be right for Burkle, who, earlier this year failed in his attempt to acquire the Tribune company.
And, speaking of the Tribune, Wall Street Journalers who are feeling despondent at the prospects of being a part of the Murdoch empire can take some solace from their colleagues at Tribune, who are apparently enthusiastically celebrating the end of the Chandler family's reign. The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal doesn't even attempt to hide his gleeful snark at the news, writing "So long, Chandlers. You'll be missed around Tribune the way New Orleans misses Katrina." It's a nice reminder to the Dow employees that even if Murdoch is successful, this too shall pass.
Of course, it's also a reminder of a harrowing disaster exacerbated by institutional incompetence.