The Bancrofts and the Benjamins

Barring a miracle, Rupert Murdoch will take over the Wall Street Journal later this week, when his latest offer is presented to the Bancroft family. (Journal coverage here; New York Times coverage here.)

For all the disingenuous talk about the Bancrofts’ holding out because of their deep, deep concern for journalistic integrity, it all comes down, as usual, to the Benjamins. The Washington Post’s Frank Ahrens reports:

Dow Jones had pushed for Murdoch to raise his $60-per-share bid by $2 to $3 per share, an amount that had come to be known as a “tip” to help placate the Bancrofts, the family that controls Dow Jones. The majority of them instantly rejected Murdoch’s bid when it became public.

A tip. Well, here’s another tip — the editorial independence agreement that has been worked out over the past few weeks will prove not to be worth the paper it’s written on.

The Journal will probably continue to be an excellent newspaper, although it may cease to be great. This isn’t about ideology — its nutty editorial page may actually move slightly to the left, as Murdoch is far more interested in power than in politics. Rather, this is about a profit-crazed, meddling shark smelling blood in the water and moving in for the kill.

Here’s a roundup of commentaries by Jack Shafer of Slate, who’s been particularly good on this subject. I especially like “Murdoch: The Filth and the Fury,” an overview of how he destroyed the New York Post despite making explicit promises not to.

Murdoch is a good steward only in the sense that he’s not overly concerned with cost-cutting — he’s far more likely to subsidize the Journal so that it will remain a suitable adjunct to his Fox Business Channel, set to debut on Oct. 15.

I don’t mean to be too nostalgic. Obviously the news business is falling apart, and we’re going to witness all kinds of unimaginable events before someone figures out how to put together a new, very different model.

But this is a sad day for journalism. At the very least, if managing editor Marcus Brauchli has any tough stories on China in the can, he’d better run them in the next day or two.

Photo (cc) by Paolo! Some rights reserved.