Australian Magazine Kills Profile of Wendi Murdoch
|Our Correspondent||Apr 21, 2007|
After commissioning an A$30,000 article about Wendi Deng,
the glamorous Chinese third wife of media titan Rupert Murdoch, an Australian
magazine apparently had second thoughts about running it shortly before it was
to appear and killed it permanently.
The story, an exhaustive 10,000-word profile by
Singapore-based Australian journalist Eric Ellis, was scheduled to appear in
the magazine Good Weekend, an offshoot of the Sydney Morning Herald, which is
owned by Fairfax Media, which publishes newspapers and magazines in Australia and New Zealand. Murdoch owns a small
stake in Fairfax
though his News Corp company.
But Ellis’s story was ordered killed, either by editor
Judith Whelan or someone above her, according to Crikey, a gadfly online
newsmagazine based in Sydney.
The Australian-born Murdoch, chief executive officer of News
Corp, is one of the most powerful men in the world of global media. News Corp
controls magazines, supermarket tabloids, television networks, Internet
operations and, among other news and entertainment outlets in the United States,
the right-wing television network Fox TV.
Certainly, there is enough grist in the story to satisfy the
publisher of any supermarket tabloid. Murdoch, born in 1931, met Deng, born in
1968, in 1997 or 1998 when she was an intern at Star TV in Hong
Kong, which is controlled by News Corp. Murdoch divorced Anna Torv, to whom he had
been married for 31 years, and married Deng the same year.
According to a bruising entry in Wikipedia, the online
encyclopedia, Deng had a tumultuous personal life before she met Murdoch. She was said to have moved to the United States in 1988 “under the sponsorship of
Joyce Cherry of California, who taught Deng
English when she was in China
with her husband, Jake Cherry. When Deng arrived in California, she moved into the home of Joyce
and Jake Cherry. Within a year after Deng's arrival, Joyce found compromising
photos of Deng in a hotel room in Jake's possession. Joyce kicked out both Deng
and Jake, who moved in together and eventually married. Within months of this
marriage, Jake kicked Deng out after finding out she had been seeing a man in
Ellis spent three months on the assignment, traveling to London, New York, Los Angeles, and to Xuzhou
province, where Deng, originally named Deng Wenge, which means Cultural
Revolution, was born into a family headed by an upper level line manager in a
Crikey reported that Ellis talked to dozens of people,
including the ex-wife of Deng’s older first husband, Murdoch watchers, current
and former executives and Wendi’s school friends and teachers.
The sheer logistics and ambition of the task suggest it was
one of the most expensive and ambitious projects ever undertaken by Good
Weekend for a single feature, Crikey reported.
The story is believed to be the most detailed account ever
written about one of the world’s most interesting and – through her marriage –
powerful women. It follows a provocative Wall Street Journal profile of Deng in
2000, titled "Rupert Murdoch's Wife Wendi Wields Influence at News
Corp", which caused a furor within Murdoch family circles because of the
information it revealed about the genesis of the Rupert-Wendi relationship and
the sensitive area of the breakdown of Murdoch’s 31-year marriage to Anna, the
mother of Elisabeth, Lachlan and James.
Last year, according to the Crikey story, Hong
Kong's Next Magazine investigated Deng's early years, interviewing
teachers, friends and classmates, dredging up some embarrassing childhood
snippets. "She had many talents
basketball, badminton, volleyball", said teacher Zhang Shan Li.
"Academic ability was just above average."
Neither Wendi nor Rupert talked to Ellis for the Good
Weekend piece, Crikey reported.
“After receiving the story several weeks ago, Whelan this
week decided not to publish – although Crikey said it is unaware whether Fairfax senior executives
or board members were consulted in making the decision. But given its enormous
sensitivity, not to mention the fact that News Limited is currently a 7.5
percent shareholder in Fairfax, it seems almost impossible to believe that most
senior figures at Fairfax were not consulted in the decision to kill the
story,” Crikey wrote
Crikey sought further information this morning from Whelan
but she said she had a strict policy of not commenting on Good Weekend's story
list. Eric Ellis also had a staunch
"no comment,” Crikey reported.
Ellis also declined to comment to Asia Sentinel.