“People generally like Marcus but he’s going to be in an untenable position,” said one staffer. “He reports to Rupert Murdoch now. He’s going to be faced with a whole series of unpleasant decisions. In the end, he’ll do what Murdoch tells him or be fired.”
As for Mr. Steiger, an announcement was sent on the Journal’s internal Web site on the morning of July 31, announcing that the former editor-at-large was being awarded the Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club.
The award, according to an internal memo, “goes annually to an individual who has achieved distinction for a lifetime of contributions to American journalism.”
For some Journal staffers, Mr. Steiger could have stood against the deal and left the paper with a different legacy.
“Everyone had tremendous amount of respect for him,” said a Journal staffer. “He had the potential to go down as one of the great figures of journalism.”
“The irony of the day,” said another Journal staffer, is “Steiger winning this award on the day he sold the crown jewel of American journalism to a creep.”
“We’ve already been through cycles at The Journal where we’ve had layoffs and buyouts,” said one Journal staffer based in California. “A fairly common thought was that we could weather the family’s determination not to accept Rupert. Now we’re back on eggshells wondering what he’ll do—and hoping that his words are truer than some of his past actions.”
In the weeks leading up to the final vote, gallows humor started to set in around the newsroom.
One e-mail making the rounds rewrote the lyrics to the R.E.M. song “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” imagining life with Rupert.
Small posters of the face of Ms. Hill, a former airline pilot, started popping up in the newsroom, bearing the legend “I Fly With Leslie,” a homage to the Bancroft trustee who was still, at press time, attempting to put together a counteroffer with Brad Greenspan, founder of MySpace.
At one point during the protracted negotiations, Journal staffers became frustrated with Bancroft family trustee and Dow Jones Board Member Michael Elefante, for negotiating what many saw as a toothless editorial independence agreement with Mr. Murdoch.
Following the news of the “done deal,” one Journal staffer in New York printed out a famous caricature of Mr. Murdoch drawn years earlier by the cartoonist David Levine.
Originally commissioned by New York founding editor Clay Felker, when Mr. Murdoch was negotiating to buy the magazine, the drawing features Mr. Murdoch’s head attached to the body of a bee, a reference to the Murdochian tabloid obsession with killer bees.
When the staffer hung a print out on the bookshelf by his office, he added a new caption: “Killer Bee Reaches Liberty Street.”