Monday, March 16, 2009

Angwin: Murdoch passes the test!

Back in January, I blogged about Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Julia Angwin's juicy new book on MySpace -- and wondered how Rupert Murdoch -- whose News Corp. owns both the WSJ and the social networking site -- would handle having one of his employees publicly embarass 2 of his most prominent execs, MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson. Would he live up to his promises to let the WSJ remain editorially independent? Would he try to quash the book (published by Bertelsmann's Random House)? Would he actually quash Angwin?

Well, today at SXSW I had the chance to see Angwin speak about her book --
Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America -- and to ask her directly: did Murdoch or anyone else at News Corp. ever try to interfere with her work on it? Did they even grumble about it? Angwin's direct answer: No! No interference from anyone at News Corp., and in fact her editors at the WSJ have been very supportive, Angwin said. (Her work on the book started before News Corp. bought Dow Jones, the WSJ's parent.)

All of which is a good thing. And imagine how loud the howls of protest from the media watchdogs would have been if Murdoch had so much as frowned at mention of Angwin's book.

This is the right outcome. But consider, also, how extraordinary it is. How many companies allow employees in one unit to publicly skewer execs in another? Can an assembly-line worker at Chevrolet blog about what terrible cars Pontiac makes? Would Google tolerate it if an engineer in search wrote a book about how the guys that run Gmail are a bunch of sleazebags? Would President Obama allow an undersecretary of the Interior to give interviews about how Hillary Clinton's misguided China policy undermines human rights?

The book is out tomorrow, March 17. The NY Times likes it. I eagerly await Mr. Murdoch's review in the Post.

(Disclosure: I used to work at News Corp. as well.)

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