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May 14, 2007

News to Me

By Ankush

The Wall Street Journal barely turns a profit?  I knew things weren't looking up, but I thought the Journal was in the general, well-populated class of newspapers with diminishing prospects but still healthy profits.  (Dow Jones, the paper's parent company, is profitable overall.) It's enough to make you think that the conservative media watchers who are so up in arms about the governance at the Times would do well to devote their energies elsewhere.

As for Rupert Murdoch's attempt to purchase the paper, it's looking less likely that it will happen, particularly given that, as of now, Bancroft family members representing 52% of the company's voting power are opposed (although David Carr, one of the savviest media observers around, has said the deal is inevitable).  As to the merits, William Powers nicely captured the lunacy of all the business media types who are going around and writing about how it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all if the Bancrofts gave in to Murdoch:

One of the miracles of The Journal has been how consistently excellent it remained -- brave, principled, beautifully written and edited -- despite frequently daft corporate oversight. In short, it has been a mediocre business but a terrific news outlet. It does not follow that the best way to fix this imbalance is to reverse it, by selling one of the world's great newspapers to a man who, in order to keep making his piles, is almost certain to undermine many of the things that made the paper great in the first place.

There's a general tendency in these sorts of situations for people who love newspapers and old media in general to extol the virtues of properties that are under fire.  The Journal isn't perfect -- the editorial pages have done real harm to American politics, and a paper that wants to cover the business world in all of its dimensions might want to give some serious thought to a labor beat that deals forthrightly, consistently, and fairly with the concerns of workers -- but it's a journalistic prize nonetheless, and it would almost certainly be ruined with Murdoch running it.  Here's hoping the Bancrofts can hold out for as long as it takes.

May 14, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I don't read it often, but my sense about the WSJ is that while the op-ed page is a massive force for evil, the straight-up news coverage is generally high quality. Is this correct?

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 14, 2007 1:25:24 AM

That is my understanding too, except it's not so much that the news department isn't also a force for evil, it's just that their audience is fellow evil-doers who actually need to know what the hell is going on in order to do their evil deeds. Unlike, say, Glenn Reynolds or Sean Hannity, they can't afford to live in Make-Believe Land.

Posted by: Jason | May 14, 2007 4:32:35 AM

Neil: That's correct -- the Journal breaks a lot of corporate scandals through its investigative work, for instance. My somewhat minor gripe is that it's basically a paper written for people in management positions, so, like I said, I don't think it provides a true three-dimensional view of the business world. That would include a look at life at the bottom, as well -- with real attention paid to union politics, the life of low-wage workers, etc.

Posted by: Ankush | May 14, 2007 7:55:31 AM

Except that that's not their market. Their market is the set of people who try to find new ways of squeezing more out of those at the bottom.

Posted by: Barry | May 14, 2007 9:58:38 PM

hey,
one thing i havent seen mentioned in the coverage that often talks of how murdoch will leave the news pages alone is the fact that in the past he has interfered - see any of his newspapers or the way he dropped BBC from Star TV when China objected..

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