As I wrote last year, News Corp. was never the right buyer for Dow Jones, which, as screwball as it could be about so many things, was scrupulous about ethics. It avoided even taking on debt so as not to appear beholden to banks.

Its code of conduct was uncompromising:

Managers, by virtue of their positions of authority, must be ethical role models for all employees. An important part of a manager’s leadership responsibility is to exhibit the highest standards of integrity in all dealings with employees, customers and the world at large. Managers must avoid even implicit or unspoken approval of any actions that may be damaging to the reputation of Dow Jones, and must always exercise sound business judgment in the performance of their duties.

It went on and on.

The committee, whether it likes it or not—whether it knew it or not—has donned that mantle. It has responsibility to vet and approve an editor worthy of WSJ traditions and then to defend the editor’s power.

Now, it has exactly two choices: either un-unresign—or fight.

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.