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Friday, July 31, 2020

James Murdoch resigns from News Corp board

James Murdoch resigned from the board of directors of News Corporation on Friday, citing disagreements over editorial choices by some of the conglomerate's news outlets.

News Corp owns Dow Jones, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal; publishing house HarperCollins; the New York Post and several other media outlets. Murdoch's resignation letter was revealed in an SEC filing from the corporation.

“We’re grateful to James for his many years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” said Rupert Murdoch, News Corp's executive chairman and Lachlan Murdoch, its co-chairman, in a statement. James Murdoch is Rupert Murdoch's son and Lachlan Murdoch's brother.

James Murdoch has expressed frustration with some of the coverage of the company's news outlets in the past. He and his wife, Kathryn, told The Daily Beast through a spokesman in January they were upset by coverage of climate change by Fox News and some of the company's Australian outlets.

"Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known," the spokesman told The Daily Beast. "They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”

Fox News is housed in Fox Corp, the successor company to an acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney in 2019. 21st Century Fox split from News Corp in 2013. James Murdoch used to sit at the head of 21st Century Fox but left the company amid the Disney acquisition. Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch are co-chairmen of Fox Corp, and Lachlan Murdoch serves as its CEO.

When asked for more clarity on the editorial disagreements prompting the resignation, Jim Kennedy, chief communications officer for News Corp, responded with Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch's statement. Spokespeople for Dow Jones and a spokesperson for News Corp Australia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

James Murdoch has backed Democratic candidates for president, and Kathryn Murdoch donated $1 million to help Democrats win a Senate majority, Bloomberg Government reported last month. She told POLITICO in January she would happily support whoever the Democratic candidate would be. James Murdoch donated $615,000 to help get Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden elected.

His father, meanwhile, has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch kept a direct phone line to the president early in his term, The New York Times reported at the time, and he advised Trump during his 2016 campaign. Trump is a regular viewer of Fox News, often tweeting out quotes from Fox hosts and analysts and calling in to its shows. Some of those comments have taken a negative turn recently amid growing concern he is slipping by wide margins ahead of November's election.

James Murdoch's resignation also comes shortly after a dramatic confrontation between the newsroom and opinion section of The Wall Street Journal. Hundreds of Journal reporters last week wrote a letter to the newspaper's publisher, Almar Latour, urging clearer divisions between the publication's news and opinion operations. Reporters alleged that work published in the opinion section was at times backed by shoddy evidence and often hindered their reporting. The reporters called for a clearer delineation to enable readers to understand the difference between the two independent operations.

After the reporters' letter leaked, the Journal's Editorial Board published a brief but scathing note saying it would not "wilt under cancel-culture pressure."

"It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution," the note to readers said.

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