The Wall Street Journal newsroom throws up a “save us” flare on page one with a story about Rupert Murdoch stepping on the gas in his bid to change the august newspaper.
The WSJ’s top editor, Marcus Brauchli, confirmed yesterday he was resigning, saying “the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing.” The paper says Murdoch is “impatient with the pace of change.”
A week and a half ago, the Journal’s Murdoch-installed publisher summoned Brauchli to a meeting to tell him they’d be better off with their own man, the paper says, something they’d been considering doing for several months. The paper’s independence committee, set up to shield it from its owner, says Brauchli told them he wasn’t resigning over any “integrity issue,” which is as close as the WSJ gets to spelling out the fact that its new owner has an, ahem, unsavory reputation among real journalists.
The New York Times on its page one says:
Mr. Brauchli’s colleagues and friends say he championed some of the changes and acted as a brake on others. But they say it was increasingly clear that much of the direction was being set by Mr. Murdoch and the publisher he installed, Robert J. Thomson, who oversees news operations and has none of the usual business duties of a publisher. Editors and reporters say Mr. Brauchli’s authority was being undercut, a message reinforced by plans to give Mr. Thomson an office in The Journal’s main newsroom.
There was particular tension lately over calls by the News Corporation team to thin the ranks of The Journal’s editors, and to put short articles on the front page or the fronts of sections that would not continue on inside pages.
The Times says with Brauchli’s ouster and his pending purchase of Newsday, Murdoch “is moving to tighten his already-imposing grip on American news media.”
Some have suggested antitrust concerns could scuttle the Newsday deal, and the Times says New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman will try to top Murdoch’s bid later this week and that real-estate scion Jared Kushner is meeting with the cable tycoon Dolan family to consider a joint bid (the Times says it was “shocked” that the handshake deal was announced so soon). If it goes through, Murdoch would control three of the ten biggest papers in the country.
On C1, the NYT looks at the antitrust issue in more depth, noting a new rule at the Federal Communications Commission that prevents one owners from owning more than one paper and TV station in a top twenty market. If he buys Newsday, Murdoch would own three papers and two TV stations in New York.
The Times says the FCC commissioner has said he’s pretty much against granting waivers, which Murdoch has already applied for for the New York Post and the Journal. The paper says Congress is taking up a bill to prevent owners from controlling a newspaper and TV station in the same city at all.
Get the Magic 8 Ball
The Los Angeles Times reports that foreclosures in California in the first quarter more than quadrupled from a year ago, while defaults were up 143 percent.
The San Bernardino County deputy sheriff, talking about evictions, has perhaps the pithiest summary of the housing crisis we’ve seen, and it’s our Quote of the Day:
“A lot of the homes were 5 or 6 months old. The people got in by the skin of their teeth,” Strickland said. “They can’t afford their payments, they skip.”
In Imperial County in southern California, foreclosures rose an astonishing 653 percent.
The Journal on page three says there are signs the housing market is stabilizing despite news yesterday that existing home sales fell another 2 percent last month (they’re off 19 percent from a year ago). It says two gauges measured upticks in sales prices, one for the first time since June.
But those measures have problems that undermine their usefulness, as the WSJ acknowledges, but it says they could show price declines are slowing and quotes an economist, who’s seen silver linings before, as saying sales will “stabilize” in a couple of months.
The Associated Press, on the other hand, says the “severe slump in housing showed no signs of abating.”
Did SEC pull back on Bear?
The Journal scoops on C1 that the Securities and Exchange Commission is refusing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into why it dropped a Bear Stearns investigation into collateralized-debt obligations way back in 2005.
The SEC was considering bringing two cases against Bear for improperly valuing CDOs and now says it can’t discuss investigations with Congress. But the WSJ says the agency has shared much more sensitive date with legislators in the past.
Keep your eye on this one.