At The Wall Street Journal, Murdoch’s most dramatic change was shifting the paper away from business news to general news. What this move has in common with The Daily is that it makes the Journal less distinctive, more of a commodity, more conventional, more like everything else. Is that what he means by defining a market broadly?

As Wolff says, quite astutely: “Murdoch and [now former WSJ Managing Editor Robert] Thomson took one of the most distinctive, stylized and “branded” voices in journalism - its look and feel recognizable at 30 paces - and flattened it.”

In the name of what, exactly?

One thing you notice when the anti-elitist trope is floated is that rarely if ever is an actual elitist reporter singled out, nor even stories that should be considered elitist or targeted for “other journalists.”

So what’s behind this ressentiment, this sense of grievance?

After all, under this logic, the fact that the Journal hasn’t won a (news) Pulitzer since Murdoch bought the place is actually a good thing. Is it really?

I think Murdoch’s charge of elitism is actually a code for something else.

“Elite” journalism, such as the Journal once produced twice a day and still does less frequently, is a very expensive and, yes, very difficult proposition. Sometime it can be boring. But sometimes it can be very powerful. And this is the key concept: powerful, particularly against elites, the real kind. Often it can be highly entertaining. Here’re some of all of the above:

And sometime it can be both. If you don’t believe me, read the Wendy Deng story from 2000.

The next time someone complains about media elitism, ask them what they mean.


Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.