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Panel formed to safeguard Journal’s integrity

NEW YORK — The job of safeguarding The Wall Street Journal’s integrity after a takeover by Rupert Murdoch will fall to a panel that includes a retired newspaper columnist, a former GOP congresswoman, two former news executives and a high-tech guru.

News Corp. and Dow Jones & Co. said in financial filings this week that five people had agreed to serve on a committee created to ensure that Journal’s editors retain some independence after the famously hands-on Murdoch takes control.

Initially, the panel will include Louis D. Boccardi, retired chief executive officer of The Associated Press; retired U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, of Washington state; Jack Fuller, former president of Tribune Co.’s publishing group; retired Detroit News columnist and former Journal reporter Thomas Bray; and Nicholas Negroponte, the former chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

As part of News Corp.’s deal to acquire Dow Jones, Murdoch agreed to give the committee limited power to intervene if the new owners attempt to compromise the paper’s accuracy, fairness or freedom from bias.

Speaking by telephone from Montana, Bray told the AP on Thursday that he hoped the committee would wind up doing “as little as possible.”

“I think it is in Mr. Murdoch’s and News Corp.’s interest to preserve the integrity and the independence of the Journal, and I think they realize that,” Bray said.

He said Murdoch, as the Journal’s new owner, will undoubtedly make changes, including some that would probably ruffle staff feathers. But, he added, “They are all adults, and I would expect them to work things out.”

Among other things, the committee will have the power to approve the appointment or removal of the Journal’s managing editor and editorial page editor, as well as the managing editor of Dow Jones Newswires.

Bray said he agreed to take the post because he loves the Journal, which employed him for nearly two decades. He joined the paper as a reporter in its Dallas bureau in 1964 and worked on its editorial page from 1976 to 1983. Subsequently, he became editorial page editor of the Detroit News, and then a columnist.

Dunn served in the U.S. House from 1993 to 2005, when she did not seek re-election. She also served as chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.