The Wall Street Journal: not a right-wing rag (yet)

Dan Kennedy nails it with his post from Friday about the Wall Street Journal. There is a tendency to dismiss the WSJ as a radical right-wing publication, which indeed can be said about its editorial page. But its news pages are among the best in the business.

From Kennedy's post.

One of the great myths of journalism is that the Wall Street Journal is a conservative paper. To be sure, its editorial page is the most relentlessly right-wing and conspiracy-obsessed in the country ...

But the Journal's news pages are run completely independently from the opinion operation, and are widely regarded as the pinnacle of careful reporting and graceful writing. Barney Kilgore, who virtually created the modern Journal, is even credited with inventing the "news feature," a form that we take for granted today.

As for politics, a 2005 UCLA study found the Journal's news operation to be more liberal than that of any major U.S. media outlet, including the New York Times.

I made a similar post when responding to Pat earlier this week.

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal Ed Page, can't get any worse--but that's not what I am worried about. The news pages of the WSJ are among the best in the country. The front page feature they run daily is often exceptional. To give this prized bastion of journalism to the man I most associate a lack of journalistic integrity is beyond scary ...

Kennedy, an astute media critic to be sure, says nothing to lessen my fear.

But why would Murdoch interfere with the Journal if he's successful in his bid to purchase the paper and its parent company, Dow Jones, for $5 billion? Doesn't he know that the Journal represents the gold standard in American journalism, and that he'd be crazy to mess with it?

Uh, get real. No, he might not drag its news coverage to the right, or turn it into a screaming tabloid like his New York Post. But the reason he's willing to pay so much for it is that he thinks he's smarter than its current owners, the Bancroft family. And, in fact, he probably is smarter than the Bancrofts, if by "smarter" you mean better at maximizing its economic potential. Why should he spend $5 billion just to leave it alone, especially if he is firmly convinced that he can make it better?

In an interview with the Times today, Murdoch makes it clear that he can't wait to start interfering with the Journal. He thinks the stories are too long. He thinks the news section should feature more political coverage. He would consider starting a Journal-branded weekend glossy magazine. He insists that he's not planning deep cuts, but adds, "I'm not saying it's going to be a holiday camp for everybody." Oh, no. You can be sure of that.

If Murdoch is successful, it would be a disaster. And, at this point, it looks like he stands a good chance of pulling this off.