Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What Murdoch Has, and Hasn't, Done to WSJ

At the best of times, the journalists at The Wall Street Journal have conflicted feelings toward their owner, Rupert Murdoch: They like that he’s invested a lot of money in their paper during a period when other publishers have cut back or shut down, but they dislike having their work associated with the output of Murdoch’s other outlets, including Fox News and the New York Post.
These are not the best of times.
WSJ-ers just lost their CEO, a casualty to the phone hacking scandal that has enveloped Murdoch’s News Corp. over the past two weeks. They’re keenly aware that their own coverage of that scandal — the biggest business story of the month — is being dissected for signs of water-carrying and general toothlessness. Worst of all, they’ve had to stew as Joe Nocera, op-ed columnist for the rival New York Times, has accused their paper of becoming “Foxified,” its news pages recruited to the Murdochian agenda.

So it’s worth taking an objective look at just how much the Journal has really changed. The Project for Excellence in Journalism takes a whack at it with a quantitative analysis of the paper’s front page in the years since News Corp. bought it. What PEJ found is not exactly shocking: The Journal has been devoting less of its front page to business news, under 20 percent in the last 18 months, versus about 30 percent in 2007, the last year Dow Jones & Co. was an independent publicly-traded company. Filling the vacuum are stories about U.S. government and lifestyle coverage. Here’s the breakdown.

In other words, the Journal is becoming more of a general interest paper like The New York Times. But, if anything, given Murdoch’s frequent avowals that he plans to beat the Times on its own turf, it’s surprising that the Journal hasn’t changed more. Even with all the changes he’s made — adding a sports section, a metro section, a glossy lifestyle magazine, etc. — the Journal has still carried more than twice as much coverage of business and economics on its front page this year as the Times has, 32 percent versus 14 percent.

FORBES, Jeff Bercovici, Forbes Staff

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