Sunday, January 25, 2009

Murdoch's next big test: new book by WSJ editor Julia Angwin airs MySpace dirt

When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. acquired the Wall Street Journal in 2007, journalism goo-goos fretted that the takeover would mean the end of independence for the previously family-owned paper. In response, Murdoch agreed to set up an "autonomous editorial board" to mollify critics -- who proceeded not to be mollified. Some say he's already broken his "independence pact."

Well, looks like Murdoch's promises of independence are about to get another big test. WSJ technology editor and writer Julia Angwin's juicy new book on News Corp.-owned MySpace is about to hit the streets. And, according to Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch, who got his hands on a draft, it does not paint a pretty picture of what goes on behind the scenes at the social-networking giant. The book --Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America -- delves deep into what Arrington terms the "shady practices" of MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, everything from allegations of hacking and spamming to age-fibbing and involvement in an "Asian-focused porn site." (UPDATE: Murdoch obviously has no problem with a British-focused porn site, mind you.) As if there were any doubt, Arrington tells us:
It’s clear from the tone of the book that Angwin’s sources are primarily or solely people who’ve left the company, many of whom have a bone to pick with MySpace or parent company News Corp.
Interestingly, Stealing MySpace, set for release March 17, is being published by Bertelsmann's Random House -- not News Corp.'s own HarperCollins.

So, will Murdoch cheer on the success of his WSJ employee as she publicly drags the President and CEO of her corporate cousins at MySpace through the mud? I have no idea. It's a big test.

(Disclosure: I previously worked at News Corp., where I can assure you that Mr. Murdoch neither interfered with my work nor had the slightest clue that I existed.)

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