For the last three months, Manhattan media speculation has focused on News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch's play for Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, the world's premier financial newspaper.
The Times editorial page is strongly against the sale, and the paper produced a large two-part attempt at an "expose" of Murdoch's business and political dealings last month, though it ended up asanticlimactic,a damp squib of old news. Since then, there have been indications that the Bancroft family, which owns a controlling stake in Dow Jones, may agree to sell the Wall Journal to Murdoch's global news conglomerate News Corp. The Dow Jones board has already approved the offer.
Undaunted, Thursday's New York Times Business section is dominated by a story by Richard Perez-Pena, "Fear, Mixed With Some Loathing - Many Reporters and Editors At The Wall Street Journal Fret Over Murdoch's Arrival." As Drudge puts it in its headline link to the story, "NYT Zings Rupert Again." The graphic featured a portrait of Murdoch in the style of the Journal's trademark "hedcuts"- dot-drawings of featured personalities.
Perez-Pena at least avoided painting a Murdoch bent on forcing his newspapers to submit to his conservative political predilections. Instead, he let Wall Street Journal reporters vent and gossip about a possible takeover by Murdoch's News Corp.
"So a possible takeover by the News Corporation - the deal is now in the hands of the Bancroft family after the offer received board approval - has placed an unusual strain on the company and its employees. Tensions have risen between The Journal's newsroom and management, particularly Mr. Zannino, a nonjournalist who had spent much of his career in the garment industry.
"Journalists are also facing two futures they never expected when they signed on to jobs they saw more as a mission, not a business - the uncertainty of what Mr. Murdoch would do as an owner, or the uncertainty of a suddenly harsh advertising climate that could lead to deep job cuts.
"'There's a real culture of passion for the truth, for shining lights in dark places and making the mysterious understood,' said a reporter, one of dozens of people interviewed at The Journal and Dow Jones, nearly all of whom asked for anonymity, fearing a backlash from the current regime or the next one. 'The overwhelming view here is that under Murdoch, that gets compromised from Day One, and that idea is devastating, heartbreaking, to people.'"
Perez-Pena passed along some of the newsroom chuckles that must make the long days fly at the Journal.
"At times, that heartbreak has been expressed in gallows humor, as newsroom employees answered phones with 'News Corporation' and mimicked Mr. Murdoch's Australian accent.
"In a conference call among editors and bureau chiefs, one said The Journal would follow the lead of The Sun, one of Mr. Murdoch's British tabloids, which prints pictures of topless women on its third page.
"'Rupert has confirmed to me that we will have Page 3 girls,' he said, according to another person on the call. 'But in a concession, they will be dot drawings,' like The Journal's traditional hand-drawn portraits."