The Journal After Murdoch

The latest issue of our magazine is out, and the first piece we’ve put online is Liza Featherstone’s look at The Wall Street Journal under Rupert Murdoch.

Featherstone finds that while the apocalypse has clearly not happened, the paper is moving away from some of the things that made it great, like long-form, off-the-news journalism:

It’s clear from conversations with reporters on a range of beats, throughout the newsroom, that the emphasis on breaking news, coupled with the shrinking space for stories, means the paper is less committed to this sort of journalism. “We’re getting down to four hundred/five hundred words,” says one reporter. “You can barely introduce what you’re talking about. What’s the point?” Within a week in March 2007, the Journal published a dozen stories over two thousand words in the front section; within the same week in March 2009, only three stories exceeded that length.

And it’s emphasizing general news more, at a cost to its business reporting:

Thomson might want to consider another bit of advice that Kilgore gave Whitney: make your publication distinctive. Specifically, he wrote, editing it “with one eye on the Times was insufficient and ultimately self-defeating.” Funny that he mentioned The New York Times, as competition with the Times is a driving force at the Journal now, leading to an increasing focus on general-interest news. A recent story on gay marriage, for instance, took up more space than any of the business stories surrounding it. Three bylines appeared on a February weather story. The Journal has beefed up arts coverage, and even has a reporter covering metro New York. While the Money & Investing section remains mostly unchanged, fewer business stories run in the front section—and those that do are often unspectacular. Insiders agree—and it’s clear from reading the paper—that the Journal is investing less in business reporting because it is investing in news.

Lots of good stuff here. Make sure to read it.

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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 Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.