Thursday, June 28, 2007

Journalists as Furniture

Talking Biz News reports today that Wall Street Journal reporters stayed out of work this morning. They're upset about slow progress in union contract talks, and of course upset by negotiations to sell the company to Rupert Murdoch.

The underlying rationale behind this move is that journalists matter to the functioning of a newspaper, and that the Journal's staff of first-class journalists is pretty nigh irreplaceable.

I therefore suggest that my colleagues at the Journal read the article by Ken Auletta in this week's New Yorker. I would suggest they read the fourth page of the online version. Auletta hearkens back to Murdoch's acquisition of a magazine where he was employed:
To try to forestall a Murdoch takeover of New York magazine thirty years ago, about forty writers and editors and art directors went on strike. I was at the magazine then, and, with delusions that I was on a diplomatic mission, led a small delegation to visit Murdoch’s outside counsel, Howard Squadron. I was certain that, once Murdoch understood that the staff would leave, he would retreat. Squadron listened politely, and replied, “You don’t understand. If you leave, Rupert will replace you like he replaces furniture.”
That sound you hear at World Financial Center is a moving van. Word is out today that the "editorial safeguards" hammered out between Dow Jones and Murdoch aren't safeguards at all.

UPDATE: The New York Times now says that the article to which I just linked, which says that Murdoch would have power to hire and fire editors, is inoperative. In a kind of non-correction correction, the Times says that power would reside in an independent board.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site, gary-weiss.com.

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