Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz takes on Rupert Murdoch and his Wall Street Journal today, in Kurtz's inimitable "not actually taking anything on" style. Some say Murdoch will push the paper to the right or destroy its essential character! Others say he won't! What's indisputable, though, is that Murdoch's Journal is trying to establish (or re-establish) itself as a national paper, maybe a tough sell in a media landscape where only the New York Times really holds that title. But Murdoch's got lots and lots and lots of money! Fun facts: the newsroom staff is up to 750, from 600 two years ago. They are adding Washington and foreign reporters. Madness! It's almost as if no one told Rupert that print is dead. But the irreparable damage to the paper's character! What about that?
So far it consists mainly of cutting back on those charming A-hed features (men buying girdles!) and the expansion of national political news. Also, a sports page, a quarterly lifestyle magazine, and recipes in the Saturday edition. All terrible crimes against journalism, obv, but not bad for the ad dollars.
The Murdoch Journal has distinguished itself with a couple good stories this election season, especially its scoop about a fight between Clinton aides Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald.
Also, Murdoch's England-imported publisher Robert Thomson, former editor of the Times of London, is one of those British newspaper types who says outrageous things in interviews about competitors, which is pretty entertaining.
How much is the evil Australian newspaper magnate actually forcing the paper to follow his petty whims and acquiesce to his tyrannical demands? Not really so much, it turns out. Unlike at the New York Post, an ideological realignment wasn't particularly needed at the already conservative Journal. And, as at other Murdoch ventures like Fox News, surrogates handle the day-to-day work of making sure Rupert's views are represented without muddying the boss's hands.
"[Editor Marcus] Brauchli says Murdoch sets 'broad objectives' and lets his editors figure out how to meet them." Doesn't that sound ominous?