Our Score: Murdoch 2 - Journalism 0

No Ingrassia book, Varadarajan quits as readers learn to play by Austrialian rules

Kudos to Keith J. Kelly of News Corp.’s New York Post who has more scoops this week.

He says Larry Ingrassia, who heads The New York Times’s business section and who has forgotten more about News Corp. than Kelly will ever know, will not be writing a book about News Corp.’s historic and disastrous deal for Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Ingrassia worked at Dow Jones for 26 years, rising to assistant(1) M.E., before departing for the Times in 2004. Who wouldn’t want to read that book?

And congrats, especially, to Kelly’s unnamed source at the Times—a skulking individual known as “insider”—who succeeded in saving business-press readers from a book that would have been bad because, well, why is unclear. First, Inside objected to the book because of Ingrassia’s conflicts of interest.
Unable to produce any of significance, Inside says it’s about “propriety,” you see, old chap. But maybe Audit Readers can decode this; I can’t:

The book deal, originally to be written by both Ingrassia and Times columnist Joe Nocera, had been in trouble almost from the start, and stoked resentment among the Times’ rank-and-file, who felt Ingrassia might be swiping story sources from the reporters covering the merger.

“It wasn’t a question of jealousy [about a possible book deal], it was a question of propriety,” said one insider at the Times.

Propriety. Quite.

Ingrassia tries to defend himself, but what’s the use?

Ingrassia, for his part, maintained that he in fact was providing his reporters with sources to cover the story, not stealing them.

The fact that what Ingrassia says happens to actually be the truth really has no bearing here in the Manhattan media moshpit.

And here’s another fact you can take to the Bank of Australia: News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch did not want an Ingrassia/Nocera book about his company. Spread that over your vegemite.

Speaking of things unwritten, Tunku Varadarajan, a Journal assistant managing editor and former editorial features editor, has joined the conga line of talent leaving the Journal, as Kelly reports in the same column.

Unlike the latest two defections, including Daniel Golden (no loss there; his last Pulitzer was three whole years ago) and talented editor Hilary Stout, who are leaving to join the business-journalism cruiseliner that is Conde Nast Portfolio, Varadarajan doesn’t have a job yet, Kelly reports:

Further up the masthead at the Journal, Assistant Managing Editor Tunku Varadarajan said he was quitting with the hope of returning to academia - although he has no job lined up yet.

Allow The Audit to provide some context: Varadarajan wrote the 2001 opinion piece that quite correctly accused Murdoch and then 28-year-old son/News Corp. official/mini-me, James, of “corporate prostitution,” for echoing the Chinese government’s line on the Falun Gong and the Dalai Lama, among other things.

Unfortunately for Journal readers, Varadarajan was one of a very few new stars that the paper’s editorial page has produced since Paul Gigot took over for the late Robert Bartley in 2002.

But who cares about readers?

And so much for the “freewheeling, Falstaffian, ironic, irreligious” environment, that band of “happy” reporters (oh, happy few), that Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff says exist at News Corp.

Hey, Michael: Wrong play.

(P.S. Journalism is counting all the more on Wolff, who has a rich deal with Bertlesmann’s Doubleday to write a Murdoch book, to write a great one.)

And, finally, for those optimists who believed that at least News Corp. would invest in the Journal and improve the paper that way, the union that represents editorial employees got pushed to the wall again by Dow Jones management in advance of News Corp.’s takeover. If DJ employees want good healthcare, I say, they can bleeding pay for it—just like James and Lachlan.

So far, no good. We look forward to more from Kelly.

1. The Audit corrects: An earlier version had a title wrong for both Ingrassia and Varadarajan. So, Errors 2 - Audit 0.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.