Citing correspondence published in the Australian Web magazine Crikey.com.au, the International Herald Tribune reports that Far Eastern Economic Review Editor Hugo Restall killed a review this week of a new book about Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch acquired the magazine last year as part of his purchase of Dow Jones Inc.
The book, Rupert's Adventures in China: How Murdoch Lost a Fortune and Found a Wife, was written by Bruce Dover, a former Murdoch journalist turned businessman who for several years worked as the genocidal tyrant's right-hand man in Beijing.
The review was written by Eric Ellis, a correspondent for Fortune magazine whose profile of Murdoch and his third wife, Wendi Deng, was unceremoniously spiked by the Fairfax Media newspapers in Australia last year. After the profile was killed, Murdoch sold his shares in Fairfax. (See this Press Box column on that spiking.)
The IHT reports that "Murdoch offered guarantees of editorial independence to win the long-sought prize of owning Dow Jones," but such guarantees mean nothing in Murdochland. As Restall delivered the spike to Ellis' review, he may well have had this passage from Dover's book about "anticipatory compliance" echoing in his head:
The thing about Murdoch is that he very rarely issued directives or instructions to his senior editors. Instead, by way of discussion he would make known his personal viewpoint on a certain matter. What was expected in return, at least from those seeking tenure of any length in the Murdoch Empire, was a sort of "anticipatory compliance." One didn't need to be instructed about what to do, one simply knew what was in one's long-term interests.
Rupert's Adventures in China captures Murdoch stooping low, still lower, and below low to make whatever deals he could with the Chinese government in the late '90s, as my Slate review explains.
In an e-mail earlier this week, I asked Far Eastern Economic Review Editor Restall why he killed the review. His response: "Thanks for your interest. I'm afraid I don't have any comment."
Don't get me wrong. Murdoch has every right to publish anything his heart desires and to suppress all stories that annoy him. He just can't pretend that his publications enjoy "editorial independence" at the same time. Suppress me with e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)