Will ‘NY Post’ Scandal Sink Murdoch Bid for ‘WSJ?

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By: E&P Staff

While media insiders and all lovers of gossip decry or simply break down in tears laughing over the latest revelations surrounding Jared Paul Stern and the New York Post’s “Page Six,” there’s a very serious side to the story: Its potential impact on Post owner Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones.

The Bancroft family, which owns most of that company, had already dragged its feet in accepting Murdoch’s lavish bid, with some members expressing disapproval of how Murdoch has run his newspapers. The latest Post tidbits speak to two of the frequent charges against Murdoch: that his papers are sensationalistic and ethically-challenged, and that he likes to direct news coverage, including allegedly killing stories that might anger his business friends in China.

In a front-page story today in the rival New York Times, James Barron and Campbell Robertson focus at first on the irresistible tawdry element. Page Six, in a pre-emptive move, broke the story on Friday, in a 675-word story that tried to counter a sure-to-emerge court document in the case of ex-Poster Stern. He was suspended last year for supposedly accepting pay for play and now may sue the paper.

“And it had some pretty juicy details: the editor of the paper patronized a strip club, and the longtime author of the column, Richard Johnson, once took a $1,000 cash gift,” the Times summarized.

But the Times also added: “The item also raised anew long-heard allegations that Rupert Murdoch, The Post?s owner, had directed the Page Six writers to avoid items that could be seen as critical of China, where he was trying to do business.”

While confirming some of the claims, Post editor, Col Allan, was quoted as calling them a ?tissue of lies.?

But the most long-lasting result may be this, as the Times put it: “The tawdry details come as Mr. Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns The Post, has made a $5 billion bid to buy Dow Jones and its centerpiece, The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Murdoch has been trying to persuade the family that controls Dow Jones that he stands for the same kind of august journalism that it does, and that his journalists adhere to high standards.

“The harshest criticism of Mr. Murdoch from within Dow Jones has been that he is willing to contort his coverage of the news to suit his business needs, in particular that he has blocked reporting unflattering to the government of China. He has invested heavily in satellite television there and wants to remain in Beijing?s favor.”

Another Post rival, the Daily News, weighed in today with a blast that opened: “The New York Post’s scandal-scarred gossip column committed editorial suicide yesterday when it admitted that Page Six honcho Richard Johnson took cash from a favored celebrity restaurant.”

Stern told the Daily News that the Post’s Friday move was “a ham-handed attack….They ended up shooting themselves in the foot.”



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