The Bancrofts Have Seller’s Remorse

Analysis: The family that owned the Journal regrets selling to Rupert, but how can they claim they didn’t know?

Is there such a thing as seller’s remorse? If so, it seems to be afflicting the Bancroft family, one-time owner of Dow Jones & Co, which includes the Wall Street Journal.

In a story co-published by Propublica and the Guardian, assorted members of the family rue the day they sold the paper to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a company now enmeshed in a scandal of nearly boundless scope.

Christopher Bancroft says he would have “pushed harder against” the deal while Lisa Steele said it would have been almost impossible to go through with it.

Bill Cox III was the lone dissenter, though it seems that is because of the money he got in the deal.

That they would come out and say this is only slightly surprising – everyone is piling on Murdoch.

More significant is that the Bancrofts, like the rest of the American press, seem to have conveniently forgotten Murdoch’s murky past and ignored more recent allegations. Until now, that is.

Sure, at the time of the sale the Bancrofts tried to safeguard the Journal and ensure its ethics would remain intact — but they could not have cared all that much.

News Corp. officially bought the Journal in August 2007, by which point News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman had already been jailed for phone hacking six months before.

So the same hacking scandal that has embarrassed and endangered the Murdoch empire stretches back to before the sale. That wasn’t enough to halt the deal?

Maybe not. It took four more years of scandal for anyone but the Guardian to pick up the story (three for the New York Times).

Yet as we have been reminded countless times this week, nefarious tactics and flexible morals are not unique to Murdoch’s British papers. This man built his empire with tabloids and sensationalism.

Trying to probe the company's past for possible malfeasance is like trying to find food at a supermarket, booze at a liquor store or [insert any other bad simile here].

The sheer power of his media empire, buttressed by political connections, have protected him this long. With both the UK Parliament and the U.S. Congress now calling for inquiries, there is no telling how much longer that will last.

What I do know is that the Bancrofts saying they wish they had known about the hacking is admirable, but saying that it would have changed their minds is almost risible.

We all knew Rupert’s empire was corrupt. It just took a dead 13-year old girl to make us care about it.