A-Rod, the WSJ, and A1

Why is a huge headshot of Alex Rodriguez taking up half the above-the-fold space on page one of my Wall Street Journal this morning?

This is a Murdoch special—something you never would have seen on page one before he took over the paper. The photo even comes with a tabloidy confessional headline:

‘I Was Young. I Was Stupid. I Was Naive.’

“I needed the money.” Er…

With such a ginormous picture, you’d expect a great story inside, but the photo caption refers to an unremarkable 482-word news story on A4. Big letdown.

Lest you think I’m quibbling about, um, inside baseball here, take the word of a Journal reader who identifies himself (or herself) as Chris Heupel in an online comment:

The front page of the Journal, above the fold, is dominated by a 5X8 picture of Mr. Rodriguez but no article. Meanwhile the president’s news conference gets 1/3 of the space as the picture of Mr. Rodriguez. It’s hard to fathom how Mr. Rodriguez’s use of drugs deserves this type of placement and column space on the front page of the Journal. If I wanted to read a paper written for 5th graders with lots of pictures I would subscribe to USA Today.

It used to be very difficult to get a story on to page one of the Journal (believe me, I know). Now a baseball player admitting the obvious can get serious real estate for a boring, generic wire photo. I just can’t figure out what value this brings to business readers.

Is anybody picking the Journal up off the newsstand because of this? I don’t think so. They’ll pick up USA Today like Chris.

Now, I know that the Times has a two-column-wide story above the fold, too. You can argue about whether that’s overplayed. But the Times is a general-interest paper. The Journal is not, despite Murdoch’s shift toward more Washington news.

And anyway, there’s some pretty interesting financial news going on these days, you know.

It’s a signal that priorities are somewhat skewed over there.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.