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July 13, 2007

Is The Wall Street Journal Worth Saving?

Brad DeLong described this as "Most Dishonest Wall Street Journal Editorial Ever." I thought that was obvious hyperbole, if for no other reason than the data set encompassing dishonest Wall Street Journal editorials is far, far too large for Brad to have comparatively evaluated in a mere day or two. It'd be like declaring a yawn from moments ago your favorite breath of air ever. It might have felt that way, but that's a hasty choice from a large pool.

Brad, however, may be right. One of the ways that mendacious ideologues can lie with statistics is to simply draw and ill-fitting line through the data, pretending it shows something entirely different than it really does. As Mark Thoma shows, the Wall Street Journal did exactly that the other day, and in a particularly transparent and embarrassing way -- they were attempting to save the Laffer curve's reputation, and suggest that corporate tax rates should be much lower in order to optimally enhance revenue. The manipulation of the graph was embarrassing, but the argument it served made the whole thing malicious.

Like many others, I'm cool to the idea of Rupert Murdoch buying the Journal. But there is an upside to it. While many professional media observers have the secret decoder manual that tells them to ignore the paper's Neanderthaloid editorial page and only pay attention to the top-notch reportage, most of the Journal's millions of subscribers don't know to make such a distinction, and so the newspaper's terrific reputation also bolsters an unbelievably pernicious and problematic op-ed page, which in turn exerts great influence on the country's monied set (and that set matters). If Murdoch took over the paper and ran its reputation into the ground, we'd lose a lot of good reporting, but the editorial page would also lose influence, becoming something more akin to The Washington Times. I can't decide if, on the whole, sacrificing the news to kill the opinions would be a net benefit or a net loss, but I'm thinking about it.

July 13, 2007 | Permalink


Damn, that's a really, really good point.

You know, one thing about the WSJ/Fox News Channel synergy that people have neglected to mention:

Isn't the intended audience -- prospective and actual investors -- precisely the type of audience that would ultimately be ill-suited to receive biased (and wrong) coverage concerning the marketplace?

I mean, presumably these aren't Fox News Republicans hoping to hear what they want out of Iraq -- these are people with, I dunno, investors with money at stake and therefore with a vested interest to hear the most accurate news possible concerning the market so they can make intelligent, informed decisions in the global marketplace.

The Tinkerbell strategy doesn't make sense when there's money involved.

Posted by: Chris R | Jul 13, 2007 1:43:04 PM

Good reporters will be good reporters no matter where they settle. And I can't imagine one at the WSJ wanting to stick around if he was asked to sell out his values.

I worked my way up through the newspaper ranks to editor of a small paper, and bailed out of the business for good when the company I'd been with for 13 years hired a publisher who had been running classified ad sales and thought editors should be managed with the same flair that was used on phone clerks.

So now I do health wonkery. I definitely traded up.

Posted by: Rick | Jul 13, 2007 1:49:10 PM

Come on, this is silly. Everybody knows the difference between the news and the opinion pages of the WSJ, particularly the subscribers. That is partly because the opinion pages are so cartoonishly unsubtle.

Businesspeople like the paper because they need the real news, but also enjoy a little political pornography on the side. If the paper is destroyed, we'd lose a great source of top-notch reporting, and that would be nothing but bad.

Posted by: jbd | Jul 13, 2007 1:54:26 PM

Except you're ignoring a much more important issue here- Murdoch didn't just buy the Journal, as if it's simply a publication that bursts from the ground. He bought Dow Jones, its reporting and information system in all. This is explicitly for the benefit of the upcoming Fox Business Network, which like CNBC will easily create an army of pundits with their own shows like Neil Cavuto and similar to the Larry Kudlow show you know yourself isn't exactly a bastion of intellectual discourse. Are you willing to "trade" the legitimate news function of the WSJ for its conversion into a second Fox News Channel, only this time dictating financial policy the way Fox News dictates social policy?

Posted by: August J. Pollak | Jul 13, 2007 1:59:14 PM

While many professional media observers have the secret decoder manual that tells them to ignore the paper's Neanderthaloid editorial page and only pay attention to the top-notch reportage, most of the Journal's millions of subscribers don't know to make such a distinction,...

Nice way to call a million people too stupid to know the difference between news and opinion, but I agree, that's absurd. The journal's bifurcated approach reflects its country club readership, fiscally conservative and socially liberal, who expect an MSM news style, but are comfortable with more conservative opinions. Mostly the journal hates taxes and any sort of government regulation, which seems unsurprising, given its audience; on other things, like immigration, they are completely out of step with conservatives, and they've been surprisingly critical of Bush on a lot of fronts.

Then, too, for Murdoch this is about Dow Jones, and specifically the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which he needs to wrest away from CNBC to give Fox Business any credibility. It's in his interest to give the WSJ a patina of "seriousness", so I would expect the scarier thing is that the WSJ as a whole would look like its editorial page - that, really, seems to be what he'd prefer.

Posted by: weboy | Jul 13, 2007 2:39:41 PM

It doesn't make you stupid to assume that the WSJ's credibility extends to its op-ed page. But it's wrong.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 13, 2007 2:41:42 PM

Put me down as a "No" on the question. I long ago decided that the blood pressure (candidly, rage) increase caused by the editorial page mendacity, logical fallacies and anti-tax monomania was in NO WAY compensated by the other 30 to 40 pages of quality news.

Hell yes, bury the sucker in a pool of yellow...journalism.

Posted by: Doug | Jul 13, 2007 3:08:38 PM

Yes it is- it's a good paper, and sorry Murdock's history speaks for itself. I like the journal just the way it is.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 13, 2007 5:29:01 PM

I'm sorry. JasonR has convinced me that the Wall Street Journal is wrong about the Laffer curve because Norway is an outlier due to its North Sea oil evenue.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein | Jul 13, 2007 5:38:42 PM

Perhaps I don't represent anybody but myself, but I think of the WSJ as being much more famous for its right-wing editorial page, and for its business reporting, than for being a paper whose reporting I might want to read on any topic that interests me. It's just hard for me to imagine taking a WSJ news article seriously. But I guess the paper's reputation is different in other circles than mine.

Posted by: Tom | Jul 13, 2007 8:16:28 PM

Sure, just as The New Republic is widely regarded as a voice of neocon thought and never, ever referred to as "even the liberal." [/snark]

Seriously, though, Marty Peretz has owned the mag for over three decades and it still retains all sorts of liberal credibility despite Crazy Andy's tenure, Betsy McCaughey's hitjob against the Clinton healthcare plan, Peter Beinart's endorsement of Lieberman for Preznit, and, well, Peretz himself.

I think that short of turning the WSJ into the NYPost (I mean literally - making it a physical tabloid), there's little Rupert Murdoch could do which would preclude him from coasting on the paper's reputation for years and years.

Posted by: DavidNYC | Jul 13, 2007 8:47:40 PM

I agree with DavidNYC; don't assume an efficient market for mass information.

In addition, this is the 'the worse, the better' argument, which frequently fails to consider how bad things can get, even over the long run.

Posted by: Barry | Jul 13, 2007 10:55:43 PM

Rick, Thanks for the laugh. I was thinking of writing something similar, but you said it better than I would have.

Posted by: Elm | Jul 13, 2007 11:31:50 PM

Jack Schafer in a Slate column made the suggestion that the Financial Times raid The WSJ staff if Murdoch buys it. I wonder why The New York Times doesn't try the same thing.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 14, 2007 12:11:50 AM

I hate to disillusion y'all, but the Journal's news reporting isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's skewed as well, but much more subtly than its editorials. It has a bias towards market cheerleading (its company reporting appears to be more dispassionate).

See Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism on this one....lots of examples tagged "media watch".

Posted by: archer | Jul 14, 2007 1:14:46 AM

Good point, Barry - this is almost a Naderite save-the-village-in-order-to-save-it argument.

Posted by: DavidNYC | Jul 14, 2007 6:43:12 PM

Crikey - destroy-the-village. But you knew what I meant.

Posted by: DavidNYC | Jul 14, 2007 6:43:29 PM

There is so little good news reporting in this country that the destruction of the WSJ news effort would definitely NOT be justified by the delegimation of its editorial page.

I also want to underscore a point of Weboy: the WSJ editorial page is not socially conservative, at least with respect to gender--which is most of what social conservatism is these days. When it supports the social conservative movement, it almost always does so in the guise of bowing to popular sovereignty, unlike the Democratic elitists. In other words: "This Jesus stuff is crazy, but we need it to keep the coalition winning elections." OTOH, the WSJ op-ed page loves the forelock-tugging aspects of social conservatism. It would weakly prefer that the toffs be multiracial and unlimited by gender roles. But ultimately, it is more important that the toffs stay toffs, and the proles tug their forelocks.

Posted by: Joe S. | Jul 14, 2007 8:25:59 PM

That same argument, I suppose, could be used to have Murdoch take over the Washington Post.

But I have a feeling that nobody reads the WSJ opinion page to change his or her opinion. The wealthy read it to see that their interests are advanced in an appropriately vitriolic fashion, and the interests of the lucky duckies among us - you know who you are, you 13 thou a year set! just intentionally remaining at that level for all the government goodies, instead of striving and working hard, like the CEO of Tyco, to create value! - are vigorously blocked.

Myself, I've written book reviews for the WSJ, and can say that the place has changed for the worst over the past decade. It used to be that what happened on the editorial page stayed on the editorial page. But somebody must have lectured the opining honchos on culture, because they made the culture section into a prep school for the children of deadender rightwingers - the Krystals of the future - where at one time it was a respectable mix. That, to my mind, was a terrible sign. of institutional decay. I don't think the reporting - which is really good - is going to remain really good, no matter who runs the paper. It is the end of a long liberal Wall street tradition, beginning with Fortune magazine, who hired Agee and Joseph Mathewson in the 30s. Even the WSJ had Alexander Cockburn write a column for a while. This is going. And it isn't coming back.

Posted by: roger | Jul 14, 2007 11:00:12 PM

This is a joke, right?

Seriously, though, Marty Peretz has owned the mag for over three decades and it still retains all sorts of liberal credibility

Two words: Stephen Glass.

Posted by: raj | Jul 15, 2007 6:39:46 AM

On the general theme of the post, I don't particularly care who owns the WSJ, Murdoch or whomever. It's not entirely clear that Murdoch's ownership of the London Times has seriously degraded its reportage, although some may differ. The observation above that Murdoch's prospective acqusition might lead to a Faux Financial Network on cable TV, to rival CNBC, is an interesting one.

One wonders, though, why would anyone pay for information that is pretty much free over the Internet?

Posted by: raj | Jul 15, 2007 6:44:35 AM

The Wall Street Journal is read (presumably) by businessmen and investors who are looking for sound business news on which to base their decisions. If the Journal strays from the serious and objective reporting of news, those readers will quickly go elsewhere. They can't accept an ideological slant on business news, it would literally cost them money. Many ideologically driven conservatives already complain that the WSJ news pages have a "Liberal" bias; that is not surprising, given that Reality has a notoriously Liberal bias. Murdoch can't afford to change the reporting too much, but of course he can make the editorial pages even more right-wing, which will make the obvious contradictions with the news pages even more glaring. So I'm not too worried about the quality of the reporting, and look forward to an even more hilarious editorial page, if that is even possible.

Posted by: Spike | Aug 1, 2007 1:49:01 PM

I've read the WSJ for 40 years. The business news coverage is top-notch and appropriately focussed. The editorial page is frequently very amusing and the editors are certainly welcome to their opinions. I laud the WSJ for keeping them separate for all these years. Murdoch would be insane to destroy the value of the WSJ by interferring with the quality of the reporting.

My biggest complaint about the WSJ is the paucity of coverage of world news. I also read The Economist for a broader view and absolutely brilliant writing and analysis. That The Economist can publish so much excellent content on a weekly basis with such outstanding writing is truly something to praise. And, yes, The Economist had its own editorial views, but they are also explicit in the editorials, not in the content. Broaden your horizons and add The Economist to your information sources. (And put your ego aside - you'll be dismayed by how much you don't know about what's going on in the world outside the US.)

Posted by: Michael H | Aug 5, 2007 10:04:04 PM

Dear Mr. Klein,

I have an extraordinaty story for you and your magazine. Regarding that matter
I want essentially inform you about my case on some specific way, maybe it will makes you interested about. In short, my case was obstructioned, from for me unknown person (or more of them), in US Department of State or US Department of Justice, and also in the court in my coutry through last five years, so that my law case is in specific blocade and staying in the place, with not any possibiliy for moving on.


1) I've got an idea to write an original story in the form of film screenplay in the first half of 1993, and started with preparing of writing in Summer of 1993.

2) In Autumn 1993 I was contacted scientis - volcanolog Jacques - Marie Bardintzeff,
from Institute of volcanologie from Paris, France, who sent to me some his works.

3) I was finished with writing of that my screenplay in April - May 1994, and after a few months of redaction and printing, I was registered my script entitled MAGMA TOWN
(VOLCANO OF DEATH) By JAA - Yugoslavien Author's Agency at August 17, 1994, under registration number FIP - 35.

4) Starting from september 1994, I was sending MAGMA TOWN on over 30 addresses of film companies or producers in Los Angeles, including and next 6 from 16, who sent me back letters about official confirmations they have received MAGMA TOWN : - George Lukas (Director and Producer), I sent him in September 21, 1994, - Walter Mirisch (Producer), I sent him in October 13, 1994, - TOUCHSTONE PICTURES, I sent them in December 29, 1994, - WARNER BROS, I sent them in December 30, 1994, - CAROLCO PICTURES, I sent them in February 9, 1995, - CASTLE ROCK PICTURES, I sent them in March 13, 1995.

5) In the time of October - November 1995 it was happened the next :
a) Jerome Armstrong (suspect plagiator), screenwriter of film VOLCANO ( FOX), has
sold his script to FOX 2000 PICTURES for $500,000.

b) Leslie Bohem (suspect plagiator), screenwriter of filM DANTE'S PEAK ( UNIVERSAL), has sold his script to UNIVERSAL for $1,250,000.

c) For me unknown screenwriter of film RING OF THE FIRE, has sold his script to

All evidences you can find in :
- Daily Variety, from November 6, 1995. Article with title : Volcano to erupt at Fox writen by : Dan Cox
- Daily Variety, from May 6, 1996. Article with title : Jones jumps into Fox's Volcano writen by : Anita M. Busch

- Hollywood Reporter, from November 6, 1995. Article with title : Fox 2000 hot for Volcano
writen by : Kirk Honeycutt

Also check web site : www.klaneagency.com/armstrong_press.htm#volcano

- Los Angeles Times, from August 23, 1996. Article with title : Hollywood Is Paying More Than Ever For Hot Novels

Also check web site : www.crichton.org/?articles=21

PRODUCTIONS, started with shooting film VOLCANO.

7) Opening date of the movie DANTE'S PEAK (UNIVERSAL) was February 7, 1997, and of the
movie VOLCANO (FOX) was April, 25, 1997.

8) From opening dates till November 28, 1997, these movies have had gross earnings worldwide : DANTE'S PEAK (UNIVERSAL/UIP) = $178,800,000 and
VOLCANO (FOX) = $120,500,000.
Also, based of unofficial sources movies
DANTE'S PEAK and VOLCANO have grossed from video cassettes and DVD discs, which have been sold world wide in an amount over $210,000,000.

9) Also, I have recently discovered that HarperCollins Publishers Inc. from New York
published two books VOLCANO
using also my screenplay MAGMA TOWN. Here, regarding both paperbacks, I give to you the next notices :
- V O L C A N O - L.A. erupts in 1997 (writen from Jerome Armstrong and story by)
Novelization by Richard Woodley, published through HarperPaperbacks in May 1997,
ISBN :0-06-101165- and, web site :

- V O L C A N O - The Coast Is Toast ! (writen from Jerome Armstrong and story by)
Novelization by Cathy East Dubowski, published through HarperTrophy in 1997,
ISBN :0-06-440690-3

web site : www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0064406903/qid=

Also, publishing company W H Smith from London, United Kingdom, also has published book VOLCANO.
I have found new information about 3 books VOLCANO printed in England :

ISBN : 0708940676
ISBN : 0006510485
ISBN : 0061011657

You can also find it if you go on web site :
and open it with ENTER.

Trully, both books are little different written than film VOLCANO, and also they are in some way different, regarding each other.I have found that in film VOLCANO are about 240 identical or very similar scenes with my script and that is the base of my lawsuit v. FOX. In both your paperbacks it is less identical scenes with my screenplay than it is in film VOLCANO (probably J.Armstrong and both novelizators : R. Woodley and C.E. Dubowski have changed parts of plots and some scenes), but it stayed pretty much.

10) Following legal conditions by the US law, I have registered my screenplay MAGMA TOWN and by UC Copyright under US legal requested term of 5 years after first registration and that by U S Copyright Office in Washington at August 12, 1999., under registration
number PAu2 - 419 – 701.

11) Because of copyright infringement and pure plagiarism I have sued all above film companies in Spring of 2000, by the District court in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

12) The court has sent the lawsuits and summons to all defendants in December of 2001, but none of 8 US defendants didn't approach to the court.

13) A year ago, I have discovered that only one sommons was arrived in Los Angeles in 2003., and that for defendant JOSEPH M. SINGER ENTERTAINMENT, which company wasn't found on their address, and that summons was sent back, and summons for the rest 7 film companies from Los Angeles,(I have gave their names above) were stoped and possible destroyed from unknown person (or more of them) somewhere in US Department of State or US Department of Justice, where it was lost their any trail.

14) Also, the case here is staying in the place, because judge is doing everything to blocade the case (I have reasonable doubt that judge was corrupted from someone who keep the side in the benefit of defendants or some of them). Judge didn't send anew summons to the defendants, and in the middle of 200,. brought one Resolution, like the court here has no jurisdiction regarding my case, what is nonsence, because that court has full jurisdiction regarding my case. After my Complaint vs. such a unlegel Resolution, that judge didn't send it to the proper higher court for more than a year, and blocade and prolongue my case.

Also, there are lot of other different facts, evidences and circumstances who talking about one conspiracy in the USA and also here, possible created from the side of defendant or from their satelits.

If you are interested about all those things, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you !

Very truly yours,

Aleksandar Skocajic

My address :

11O5O B E O G R A D 22

PHONE NUMBER : 011-381-11-2836-304

Best calling about 2,00 PM.

E-mail address : [email protected]

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