Despite the fact that Rupert Murdoch's Dow Jones courtship has, at this point, the overarching look of something that's mostly a done deal, there remain pockets of opposition to Rupe's aspirations, still not willing to concede the game.
Chief among the resistance is James Ottaway Jr., who holds a sizable--though not controlling--chunk of Class B shares of Dow Jones stock. Ottaway may not be a major player mathematically, but as an outspoken critic of Murdoch, he's found his way onto the stage, tirelessly warning of Murdoch's intentions. In fact, if Murdoch is the one whispering sweet-nothings into one of the Bancroft's ears, it can rightly be said that Ottaway has been on the Bancrofts' other shoulder, sounding the alarm.
In a lengthy interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Ottaway voices his concerns in specific detail: comparing the "American" journalism traditions to the shadier ones in which Murdoch rose, explaining the mistakes of the past that led to the fate Dow Jones now faces, and generally sticking up for editorial independence with a laudable passion:
"This is capitalism gone crazy. A more fundamental (element of) capitalism in a free-market economy is that you base reporting on accurate information on which investors can make investment decisions and voters can make political decisions. What we're in danger of losing is fact-based journalism that serves as a basis for public debate. I fear for the country if we do not have unbiased news sources available to every citizen so that they can hear all sides of major public issues and make intelligent decisions. Information must be based on some agreed-upon factual starting point. Otherwise, everything is propaganda and biased information, and nobody knows what the truth is.
What's the "truth" about the likelihood of the deal going through? For his part, Ottaway plans to vote no, saying "I couldn't live with the shame of having sold Dow Jones to Murdoch." Based on what Ottaway knows of his fellow shareholders, however, the picture is fuzzier. When asked if he expects a close vote, Ottaway is forced to admit, "I honestly don't know."
Ultimately, though, hearing someone with such intimate knowledge of the matter describe the state of play as uncertain offers the Murdoch opposition a glimmer of hope, especially coming days after an incorrect report made it look like Dow Jones was all but signed, sealed and delivered. Of course, what Ottaway glosses over is the fact that even if the Murdoch deal fall through, what the Wall Street Journal will be "in danger of losing" is a significant portion of its staff.
Ottaway to Bancrofts: Resist the Murdoch Temptation [CJR]
Job Cuts Averted as Bid for Journal Stays Open [New York Times]
Previously, on Eat The Press:
Did Murdoch Seal The Deal? Not So Fast...