By Chet Yarbrough
Written by Sarah Ellison
Narrated by Judith Brackley
(SARAH ELLISON-AUTHOR, REPORTER FOR “THE WASHINGTON POST”)
The word “War” in Sarah Ellison’s book title exaggerates the reality of change at the “Wall Street Journal”. Exaggeration aside, Sarah Ellison succinctly reports big changes in the newspaper. Ellison writes a very straight forward and interesting account of the takeover of the “Wall Street Journal” by Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation.
(RUPERT MURDOCH, MEDIA MOGUL)
Ellison’s presentation does not have the depth and breadth of Halberstam’s “The Powers That Be” but it does provide insight to changes that are happening in the newspaper industry.
Murdoch is characterized by some as a devil but Ellison’s picture is not horned or tailed. The “Wall Street Journal”, like every mass circulation newspaper in the nation, is in the same life boat.
The internet and their communication speed have ripped holes in the “Chicago Tribune”, “Philadelphia Enquirer”, and “Los Angeles Times” sailing buoyancy. Even the “Washington Post” and “New York Times” have taken on water.
Murdoch is not painted as a white knight, but Ellison’s reporting suggests rescuer is a more apt description than devil. The same might be said of Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the “Washington Post”. Also, though the “New York Times” has not changed hands, it has suffered through years of weakened financial viability.
JEFF BEZOS (CEO AND PRINCIPAL OWNER OF AMAZON)
The “Wall Street Journal” and other daily papers are leaner today because they are following market demand for shorter stories, but the “…Journal” and other national market papers have not abandoned investigative journalism. Newspaper reporters plumb the inner workings of world crises. They reveal government malfeasance, and investigate corporate corruption. They remind the public that “freedom of the press” is fundamental to democracy. The depth of newspaper coverage is deeper and more comprehensive than rumor driven internet accounts.
The internet has democratized the news; i.e., individuals seek their own depth. Some suggest newspapers like “USA Today”, have taken a step too far by reducing print to twitter feeds about the news. Their reporter and news feed cutbacks have caused a loss in value (stock price decline) that has encouraged a hostile takeover by MNG (an offer recently rejected by “…Today” ownership). The complication for print media is monetizing web based reporting without decimating print coverage. Those newspapers that cannot meld one to the other seem destined to fail.
ARTHUR OCHS SULZBERGER JR. (PUBLISHER OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
Murdoch and Sulzberger media conglomerates have specialization and editorial biases that serve their consumer cohorts. Subscribers have the option of reading their papers on the internet when traveling away from home. Income from internet add sales supplement print advertising. Those publications that refine the utility of their websites are a boon to both newspaper publishers and consumers.
Those newspapers that focus on substantive truth, website improvement, and delimited editorial bias will serve themselves as well as the public. Internet integration of print with internet reporting will sustain national newspapers’ future.
Media longevity is a matter of change, i.e., newspapers did not disappear with the advent of radio and radio did not disappear with the advent of television; they adapted, they changed. Murdoch has taken a creditability dive with the Fox network news settlement, but the WSJ remains among the best source of business news in the world.
Newspaper readers who stand and wait will also be served. Murdoch over paid for the “Wall Street Journal”; maybe for the wrong reasons, but with the right results. Ellison implies the “…Journal” is serving its customers better now than before Murdoch’s takeover. The “New York Times” return to profitability suggests the same. The jury remains out on “USA Today”, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times”, “Washington Post”, “Philadelphia Enquirer” and other nationally recognized papers. Change is universal, survival is ephemeral.