Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dow Jones Goes Down Under

The media melodrama is over. Apparently enough of the Bancroft family will accept Rupert Murdoch’s $5 billion Faustian bargain for the Wall Street Journal.

But give them credit for a struggle to save their souls. At a family meeting Monday night, the Journal reported, one of the matriarchs, 77-year-old Jane Cox MacElree, argued against making the deal with the Devil by invoking the martyrdom of Daniel Pearl.

"He put his life on the line for the paper," Ms. MacElree said, citing the reporter who was kidnapped and killed by Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Ms. MacElree was supported by daughter, Leslie Hill, a Dow Jones director and former airline pilot, who waved a quarter-inch-thick manila envelope filled with letters from Journal reporters and editors who protested a deal with News Corp.

“She said it was their voices that mattered.” the Journal reported. “In a halting speech, she was on the verge of tears as she talked about the reporters' dedication to their jobs, and told family members they owed it to the Journal's rank and file not to sell the paper, according to participants.”

What’s remarkable about this prolonged struggle is not that the various branches of the Bancroft family finally succumbed to Murdoch’s offer that doubled the market value of their holdings but that so many resisted for so long.

In the era of corporate journalism, it’s sad to witness the loss of another leading family-owned company with the principles expressed by Ms. MacElree and her daughter, but there is a kind of cold comfort in seeing that such sentiments still exist.

Their time may have passed, but Murdoch’s won’t last forever, either.

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