Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dow Jones Union, Unhappy With Frying Pan, Covets the Fire

I have great respect for the Dow Jones employees union, and used to be somewhat active in it during my time at Dow Jones in early Eighties. But I really think that the people running that union have taken leave of their senses.

Today comes word that the Dow Jones board met with a possible alternative to the dread Rupert Murdoch -- "Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan and supermarket mogul Ron Burkle" -- according to the usual "people familiar with the matter" quoted by the Wall Street Journal today.

What's grotesque is that these two individuals, who could very easily be far worse to the Wall Street Journal and the other properties than Murdoch ever could be, were brought to the table by the union representing Dow Jones editorial employees.

That is nothing short of amazing. Does the union, the Independent Assn. of Publishers Employees, have any idea what a Journal run by guys like Burkle and Greenspan would be like? I don't, and I shudder to think. As Peter Kann, the ex-Journal managing editor, told the Journal today:

, , , if the family is going to sell I see no point in pursuing industrial conglomerates, Internet entrepreneurs, supermarket magnates and real-estate developers. None know anything at all about journalism. As to Mr. Murdoch, at least he loves newspapers, presumably would invest in the WSJ and Dow Jones, and would seem to have little incentive to tarnish a trophy he has coveted for so long.

If IAPE wants to preserve the editorial independence of Dow Jones, it needs to oppose any buyer, not just any buyer whose name begins with "Rupert." This "anything but Rupert" strategy could very easily backfire, when (not if, when) the post-takeover layoffs begin.

If the person performing the layoffs is a supermarket or a vitamin or an Internet or a ladies-corset magnate, he could simply say, "I have to do this so that I could afford to save your blessed company from Rupert Murdoch."

Perhaps IAPE should take a train ride to Philadelphia one of these days, and think about what happens when amateurs buy newspapers. After the Philadelphia Inquirer was sold to local entrepreneurs, the aftermath included advertisements on the front page and plastering the name of a bank across the business section.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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