Vigil Over Bancrofts Begins

At the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange on July 17, shares in Dow Jones, Inc., edged slightly lower; analysts attributed it to the news, broken by Dow Jones’ own Wall Street Journal that morning, that Rupert Murdoch was close to a deal to buy the company.

On May 1, when the news first leaked that Mr. Murdoch had bid $5 billion to buy Dow Jones, the stock surged.

What’s changed?

It’s probably impossible to tell. But since the early days of the Rupert Murdoch.-Dow Jones saga, the Australian-born New Yorker’s stock has certainly gone up, while Dow Jones’ bargaining position has seemed to melt away.

After 11 p.m. the same evening, Dow Jones released a statement saying that its board had voted to recommend the sale to Mr. Murdoch, whose News Corp. publishes The New York Post and operates the Fox News Channel.

The meeting, which had begun at 7 p.m., ended months of back-and-forth on the matter. And two members of the Bancroft family, the family that controls the company through a complicated network of shareholding trusts inheritedfrom an early president, Clarence Bloom, did not vote on the measure.

At the outset, the idea seemed ludicrous to many. The august Wall Street newspaper, in the same hands that publish the decidedly Fleet Street New York Post?

It was quickly posited that the Bancrofts would balk at the idea of a sale.

Most Journal staffers who oppose the sale have stepped one week at a time straight through the Kubler-Ross continuum, and realized that the days of the Bancrofts at Dow Jones may indeed be nearing an end.

Robert Block, a Journal reporter based in the Washington bureau, seemed on edge.

Mr. Block recently wrote a piece for Media Matters, the newsletter of the Local 1096, in which he criticized Rupert Murdoch’s impact on the newspaper business in England, where Mr. Block once worked for the Sunday Times.

“I worked for the man,” said Mr. Block in an interview on the evening of July 17, as Mr. Murdoch was meeting with the Dow Jones directors. “It was a British publication in a slightly different tradition than we have. But I see in everything he owns a certain ethos—and that is pandering to a market and using popular taste and entertainment to tell everything.… The ethos that he brings is not compatible, I think, with the ethos of why most of the people joined the Journal.”

“I think there will be an inevitable culture clash,” added Mr. Block. “Some of my friends and colleagues are going to cross their fingers and hope for the best, some are going to leave, some of them are going to work real hard and try and find exit strategies for themselves, and many are resigned to the fact that there are market forces greater than themselves and they will sit around and hope for the best.

Vigil Over Bancrofts Begins