Rupert Murdoch‘s surprise bid for Dow Jones last week made for high drama, elaborate machinations and deft maneuvers.
And that’s before you even get to the bid.
With so many pundits focusing on how a Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal would cover the news, they may be overlooking a juicier angle: how the news is covering the possibility of a Murdoch-owned Journal.
When news of the bid broke May 1, countless editors and producers were put in the thorny position of covering either their own company or a chief rival.
Improbably leading the coverage was CNBC, a cable news net not usually known for breaking big media stories.
No one was confirming how CNBC got so many juicy leaks — including the original report of Rupe’s offer — but the fact that Wall Street Journal editors and reporters have an exclusive agreement to appear on the net left some speculating that someone at the broadsheet was tipping the news.
CNBC’s rivals, for their part, weren’t sitting around. Finding itself in the position of having one of its competitors dining out on its own story, Fox News scheduled Murdoch on “Your World With Neil Cavuto,” in which the News Corp. chief laid out his case.
He even made what seemed like a direct pitch to the controlling Bancroft family: “It’s a generous offer and we are the sort of people with the same traditions and I think we would prove great guardians for this paper,” he said.
A few hours later, CNBC one-upped Murdoch at his own game: It reported that the Bancrofts were rejecting the News Corp. offer.
The Murdoch interview posed an even bigger problem for the Journal. Here was the biggest business story of the day, and the respected paper didn’t have an interview with the principal — the exact interview that the Journal usually gets ahead of everyone else.
So the decision was made to post the transcript of Murdoch’s chat with Cavuto on the Journal’s Web site, making for the unusual instance of a potential buyer getting a platform in the very publication he’s seeking to purchase.
It got even more surreal after the Bancrofts’ rejection. Now a newspaper was printing a pitch to its owner even as the owner was rejecting that pitch. (At least no one will say the Bancrofts exert editorial control.)
And Murdoch’s New York Post? The next day’s paper referenced the bid in its business section … on page 37.
But it couldn’t resist a little politicking of its own. In the second graf of its main story, the Post provided a built-in defense to the Bancrofts’ widely reported rejection of the bid. “Sources said many of the younger Bancrofts want to sell and it is the family’s older generation that’s against the idea.”
One could only wonder where those sources originated.