Ah, that revenue reality. There’s no arguing with it, is there? Now, of course, back when men still wore hats and weren’t nearly as media savvy as they are today, Barney Kilgore, the modern Journal’s pioneering editor and Dow Jones’s top executive, decided the best way to build value—longterm—would to be to zig while others were zagging, to de-emphasize what happened yesterday and give readers, breadth, depth, and scope—greatness. But what he did he know? He only quadrupled the Journal’s circulation to a million.
Anyway, this Speedy thing is a big deal, apparently.
The system is in need of revolution, not reform. We must all think of ourselves as Dow Jones journalists and, at the least, have some comprehension of the life-cycle of a news story and its relative worth to our readers around the world. Not all content demands to be free and our content, in particular, has a value that is sometimes better recognised by our readers than our journalists.
Note the dig at “our journalists.” And “Speedy” (an old Dow Jones system for quickly sending stories to the wire) will now be “Urgent”:
With these objectives in mind, we are sending Speedy to the knackery and saddling up a successor, the URGENT. New nomenclature alone will not generate news, so there must also be basic changes of principle and practice at the Journal. A guide to the new system will be published next week and we are aiming to launch on April 15. In coming days, please raise any relevant issues with your bureau chief or editor. There is much angst-ridden, vacuous debate about the fate of American journalism – this is an important practical measure to secure the long-term future of journalists at Dow Jones.
First, Thomson needs to stop taking sophomoric digs at his staff. That’s our job.
Second, any implication that Journal writers are lolling around, not working hard enough, and don’t share Thomson’s sense of urgency about the crisis in newspapers is a joke. If they worked any harder over there there’d be nothing left but a few pools of butter on the newsroom floor.
Third, you’re talking about squeezing a toothpaste tube here. Nothing is for free. You want scoops, political news, international news, you lose something else. Cranking up the newsroom hamster-wheel is what news organizations in trouble have always done. No one has demonstrated that it works. It is also the bureaucratic response. It is easy to measure words, exclusives, stories per reporter, etc. It’s harder to measure greatness.
Fourth, Murdoch and Thomson have to get over their own conflicts and angst about the property Murdoch bought and Thomson now runs. What gave the Journal its value was, first and foremost, by a long shot, its legendary Page One. The paper’s greatness was the reason Murdoch wanted it in the first place, even while—as Wolff’s biography of Murdoch makes clear—resenting it. If Murdoch saw the value in scoops, he would have gone after Reuters. But he didn’t, did he?
Fifth, I predicted all this.
Not to mention the News Corp. director/aspiring opera singer appointed to represent the Bancroft family, Dow Jones’s former controlling shareholders who had inherited special “Class B” shares designed to help them preserve the Journal’s “independence and integrity” but sold the paper anyway.
Maybe someone should wake up Dow Jones’s “special committee” on editorial integrity, the Maytag repairmen of the media industry.
Seventh, while the staff is running around Speedy-ing things, we’ll never know what readers gave up in return for all those 200-word items about pharma industry talks and whatnot.
OAKLAND, Calif. — On the eve of the 1986 leveraged buy-out of Safeway Stores Inc., the board of directors sat down to a last supper. Peter Magowan, the boyish-looking chairman and chief executive of the world’s largest supermarket chain, rose to offer a toast to the deal that had fended off a hostile takeover by the corporate raiders Herbert and Robert Haft.
“Through your efforts, a true disaster was averted,” the 44-year-old Mr. Magowan told the other directors. By selling the publicly held company to a group headed by buy-out specialists Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and members of Safeway management, “you have saved literally thousands of jobs in our work force,” Mr. Magowan said. “All of us — employees, customers, shareholders — have a great deal to be thankful for.”