From the New York Observer's accounting of the "diaspora" from the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, one would think the business newspaper was melting down under its new régime. The Observer's Koblin lists 24 departures and the exodus tallies with the word reaching anyone with friends at the paper: morale is so low that anonymous leaking provides one of the few sources of entertainment for the more sullen veterans. But Murdoch lieutenant Robert Thomson can take his time on newsroom surgery at the Journal; the patient isn't going anywhere. Let's put aside the fact that most of the departed reporters and editors have been pushed out, or left under the old guard, as an exasperated commenter notes. But, more importantly, even if the Journal's talents were inclined to leave, there's nowhere in today's faltering business media for them to go.
Five ex-WSJers have ended up at Portfolio, and three at the NYT; the rest are scattered amongst other financial news outlets (Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, the FT, etc.) and the higher-paying fields of PR and finance.
Here's the problem: not a single one of those outlets that is scooping up the Journal's castoffs is doing better than the Journal itself. The paper is the only one in America actually investing in financial news; elsewhere, it's simply a shrinking field. The big three financial magazines are all in more or less perilous positions. The Economist's upper ranks are a good gig, but only for a chosen few. Of the prospective upstarts in the field, Portfolio has thus far proven itself to be only a black hole for Conde Nast's money, and Slate's proposed new business title will employ only a relative handful of journalists (and is no sure success itself). FiLife.com, IAC's new money matters site, has morphed into a user-friendly community site based on personal finance that no skilled business journalist would have any use for.
Newspapers? Even worse. The Times can't afford to pick up all the business reporters qualified to work there. Nor can the FT, even if it wanted to. Reuters and Bloomberg are viable employers (for now), but neither offers the type of prestige the WSJ does for an ambitious reporter.
The point: The number of decent US jobs in business journalism is shrinking. Those who leave the WSJ face the very real prospect of not finding anything nearly as good as the position they left. And the problem will only get worse for the foreseeable future. So those who bailed out for PR and Wall Street will end up with a lot of old WSJ colleagues sending resumes their way.