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Journal staff protests Murdoch

Integrity of paper is at stake, says reporters union

NEW YORK -- Unionized Wall Street Journal reporters didn't show up for work yesterday morning to protest Rupert Murdoch's bid for the Journal's parent company, as well as Dow Jones & Co.'s proposals for a new labor contract.

The half-day walkout had high participation by members of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, which represents all US Journal reporters, said E.S. Browning, who heads the union's bargaining committee.

Union president Steve Yount said the employees are concerned about the $5 billion offer from Murdoch's News Corp. as well as the latest contract proposals from Dow Jones, which include higher healthcare premiums.

The union and a former board member at Dow Jones say the Journal's independence and quality would suffer under Murdoch's ownership, something Murdoch denies.

Despite the Journal's longstanding prestige and clout in the business world, Dow Jones remains a relatively small company, while News Corp.'s operations span the globe, including the New York Post, newspapers in England and Australia, the Fox network, the Fox News Channel, the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio, and MySpace.

Dow Jones has also lagged behind Bloomberg LP and Reuters Group PLC in the business of providing real-time financial news. Reuters recently agreed to be acquired by Thomson Corp., a major provider of electronic information services to legal and financial professionals, creating an even larger rival. Murdoch's interest became public in early May, and Dow Jones's controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, initially rejected his overture. They have since softened their opposition.

"This is about preserving the quality and integrity of The Wall Street Journal," Yount said. "We're talking about . . . preserving what is special about Dow Jones."

Dow Jones and News Corp. spokesmen declined to comment.

Dow Jones and News Corp. have reached an agreement in principle over the Bancrofts' main concern: that measures be put in place to protect the Journal's editorial independence.

The details of the editorial safeguard proposal have not been made public, but a person familiar with the matter said the plan called for creating a five-person committee that would have to approve the hiring and firing of top Journal editors.