Times Responds to News Corp. Slam: ‘Are You Kidding?’

Previous pieces in The Times, largely emanating from the business desk, focused reporting on the terms of the independence deal and the likelihood of the Bancrofts finally giving in to Mr. Murdoch’s advances.

But the larger question—just how much independence could Mr. Murdoch really offer, without applying a wholly different standard to his Dow Jones properties from the ones he has applied elsewhere?—had remained largely unanswered in The Times’ overall report.

The first meeting to discuss the “Murdochracy” series, as it is being called, took place at The Times’ former West 43rd Street headquarters while Ms. Abramson was still in the hospital last month, recovering from injuries she sustained in a traffic accident, according to one Times staffer.

The basic idea, according to sources familiar with the evolution of the series of articles, was to look into the connection between Mr. Murdoch’s business interests and policy—both domestically and internationally.

Ms. Abramson wrote about Mr. Keller asking her to lead a month-long “investigative project” that would involve “a group of domestic and foreign reporters.” Almost four weeks later, The Observer revealed that the project was to focus on Mr. Murdoch.

Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet was involved early on, and since policy was more the domain of the formerly Washington D.C.–based Ms. Becker, she was eventually given the lead. Ms. Becker had a strong reputation for her investigative prowess, according to a Washington Post staffer, and was a bit of a loner, seated away from most staffers in the newsroom.

Ms. Becker, wife of Times metro reporter Serge Kovaleski, began working at The Times around June 1. It was her first byline for the paper—ironically, it appeared the same day her investigative piece on Dick Cheney appeared on the front page of The Washington Post.

Mr. Siklos was put on the story, too, while fellow BizDay reporters Mr. Sorkin and Mr. Pérez-Peña remained covering the hard elements of the deal.

But investigations editor Matt Purdy would be the primary editor on the new project, assisted by media editor Bruce Headlam.

When they appeared, The Times pieces weren’t shy about how central the issue of editorial independence was to the newspaper’s investigation.

“The sale,” The Times wrote, “would give Mr. Murdoch control of the pre-eminent journalistic authority on the world in which he is an active, aggressive participant. What worries his critics is that Mr. Murdoch will use The Journal, which has won many Pulitzer Prizes and has a sterling reputation for accuracy and fairness, as yet another tool to further his myriad financial and political agendas.”

Was the Times ownership doing the same thing? Mr. Ginsberg asserts it was.

“Ironically, The Times, by using its news pages to advance its own corporate business agenda, is doing the precise thing they accuse us of doing without any evidence,” read the remainder of his statement, printed in The Times article.

Ms. Abramson, in an e-mail to The Observer, wrote only: “The work speaks for itself.”