Saturday, June 30, 2007

Whither Barron's in the News Corp. Empire?

One essential element has not been mentioned in the tussle between Dow Jones and Rupert Murdoch is the fate of the prestigious, market-moving, influential Barron's financial weekly.

That absence stood out like a sore thumb in the "agreement in principle" between Dow Jones and News Corp., anticipating the all but inevitable takeover.

The text was posted here last night.

Note that this agreement is narrowly constructed to cover just the Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones news wires. Barron's is not mentioned, and has been ignored in the public back-and-forth over editorial integrity.

Under this agreement, the editor of Barron's can be replaced immediately, and this publication could immediately be used as a showpiece for News Corp. staffers and editorials. Its staffers, if not covered by the existing CNBC deal, could be immediately utilized by the new Fox business news channel.

Or at least, that's what I would do if I were Rupert Murdoch. I'd put one of my own people in charge of Barron's ASAP.

I wonder if this omission is a reflection of the lack of importance given to Barron's by both sides.

Or is it a reflection of what has been widely known for some time -- that the management of Dow Jones is grievously incompetent?

If so, we in the media who are watching this deal are not any better. Apparently nobody has given the fate of Barron's any thought. Remember that this is not a stock-touting newsletter. It is a respectable, highly reputed investment journal with a reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting. (Full disclosure: I used to work there in the early eighties.)

In the media coverage of the Murdoch takeover, Barron's usually gets mentioned only in an offhand fashion as part of the Dow Jones organization. It has otherwise been overlooked, and nobody has noticed that it is not covered by the management-employment guarantees and editorial-independence strictures that have been discussed.

Dean Starkman of CJR Daily's Audit section says that the News Corp. "can't cover" the U.S. business story, and details why in an article yesterday. If there is any validity to that point of view, it certainly applies to Barron's as much as it does the Wall Street Journal. Yet the media has ignored this whole aspect of the takeover as much as the Dow Jones board.

Dean says the media has done a "terrific job" covering this story, but I am not so sure.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


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

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