News that Rupert Murdoch has made a credible bid to acquire Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, has evoked two reactions: In newsrooms, among pro journalists and among devotees of investigative journalism, there is much rending of garments. The Journal is one of the world’s best news organizations. Its front-page features are often models of in-depth reporting. Dow Jones has maintained a reasonably good record of separating its news operation from its editorial page’s lunacy. Would a Murdoch-owned Journal let its editorial barbarians cross the great wall?
Outside of the journalistic fraternity, the prospect of a union between Murdoch and the Journal’s cartoon-conservative editorial page instead has many left-leaning readers either shrugging with indifference or indulging in a bit of schadenfreude. As one wag put it over on Andrew Leonard’s How the World Works blog, “Oy, it’s as if Shelob desired to acquire Barad-dur Industries, Inc.”
I count myself in both these groups. I would hate to see the Journal’s reasonably independent and often irreplaceable news coverage deteriorate; it is a central part of my daily information diet. But if the Journal’s grand newsroom tradition falls victim to a corporate acquisition, I can’t help feeling, also, that the fate is fitting. The Journal — its news pages as well as its editorial pages — is the daily bible of global capitalism, encompassing all of that term’s positives and negatives. It is a chronicle of the power of markets to reshape institutions. How could it expect to be exempt itself?
As for the rest of us, whether we embrace markets wholeheartedly or think they benefit from some fair rules and healthy counterweights, the prospect of a Murdoch-owned Journal — like the ongoing struggle for the New York Times’ corporate soul — is another reminder that, in the business world, good journalism has no uniquely protected status. It will flourish or perish as we find creative ways to support it. The old models are eroding. That’s not going to stop. The question is, how quickly can we find new ways to make sure that, whatever happens to the Wall Street Journal itself, someone somewhere is still able to provide Wall Street Journal-style coverage?
[tags]journalism, wall street journal, rupert murdoch[/tags]
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