"Rats Mob the Upper East Side." So reads the cosmically appropriate top headline in the Wall Street Journal's new New York section, with which Rupert Murdoch plans to exterminate the New York Times. The newspaper war is on!
Launching a newspaper section with this much hype behind it is a curious task. Unlike a magazine or a TV show, a newspaper—no matter how many months it's spent in development—must still react to the news of the day. Day one of the WSJ's New York section seems to keep much of the breaking(ish) local news on its Metropolis blog, the WSJ's answer to City Room and Gothamist. The section covers a terrorist who slipped through security and New York state's fiscal emergency—the sort of stories that may well have made the paper before the section launched—but also newly local stories like a slaying in Harlem, which certainly would not have made the old WSJ, except perhaps in quirky feature form months after the fact.
Sports and Broadway and an unusually hefty chunk of real estate coverage also make an appearance (which could indicate that the WSJ plans to steal real estate advertising from not only the NYT, but also smaller competitors like the Observer). In short, it's not that much different from the current incarnation of the NYT's own metro section. Unsurprisingly!
THE NEW YORK TIMES' RESPONSE
The NYT has had an extra cup of coffee, making its response to this development mildly more aggressive than the NYT has traditionally been! That's partly thanks to new PR guy Bob Christie, who came over from the WSJ. Before the WSJ's presser on its new section this morning, the NYT sent out a Powerpoint deck to the media, subject line: "READ BEFORE THE WSJ PRESSER." All caps, at that! The deck simply makes the NYT's traditional points about how ubiquitous, respected, and dominating it is as a news organization, the subtext being, "and nothing Rupert Murdoch's slimy ass does will ever top that." And since this newspaper war may ultimately be decided by who can woo more female readers, the NYT was sure to point out that it has lots of female readers:
So as our welcome gift to New York, we pass on a few helpful hints to our Journal colleagues: the Dodgers now play in Los Angeles, Soho is the acronym for South of Houston, Fashion Week has moved to Lincoln Center, Idlewild is now JFK and Cats is no longer playing on Broadway.
If you happen to know anyone who works for the Journal's new section and he or she wants any additional information about the greater New York region, tell them to check out NYTimes.com's always very helpful archive.
That is perhaps the most aggressive statement ever attributed to the mild-mannered Pinch Sulzberger!
The completely financially illogical newspaper war is on. It will leave many journalistic corpses in its wake. But you, the reader, will win no matter what.
(Unless the New York Times loses).