The New York Times' David Carr used his weekly media column Monday to analyze the changes at the Wall Street Journal since Rupert Murdoch bought the publication.
Murdoch's Journal, Carr writes, "is no longer anchored by those deep dives into the boardrooms of American business with quaint stippled portraits, opting instead for a much broader template of breaking general interest news articles with a particular interest in politics and big splashy photos."
Carr goes on to identify editor Robert Thomson and deputy managing editor Gerard Baker as Murdoch's henchmen in tilting the paper's coverage "to the right." Carr writes:
According to several former members of the Washington bureau and two current ones, the two men have had a big impact on the paper's Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone, and editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current administration. And given that the paper's circulation continues to grow, albeit helped along by some discounts, there's nothing to suggest that The Journal's readers don't approve.
Mr. Baker, a neoconservative columnist of acute political views, has been especially active in managing coverage in Washington, creating significant grumbling, if not resistance, from the staff there. Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits -- "health care reform" is a generally forbidden phrase -- and global warming skeptics have gotten a steady ride. (Of course, objectivity is in the eyes of the reader.)
Thomson has lashed out at the Times in a statement, telling the New York Observer:
The news column by a Mr David Carr today is yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat. The usual practice of quoting ex-employees was supplemented by a succession of anonymous quotes and unsubstantiated assertions. The attack follows the extraordinary actions of Mr Bill Keller, the Executive Editor, who, among other things, last year wrote personally and at length to a prize committee casting aspersions on Journal journalists and journalism. Whether it be in the quest for prizes or in the disparagement of competitors, principle is but a bystander at The New York Times.
Keller responded, saying:
While David's column clearly got under Mr. Thomson's skin, I don't see anything in this response that casts doubt upon it. The column was scrupulously fair and, if anything, understated, and I have no inclination to help Mr. Thomson change the subject.