New York Times Gives Comfort to Wall Street Journal Reporters Worried about Murdoch Takeover

The Barbarian is at the gates, and the Wall Street Journal newsroom is cowering in terror.

Conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is trying to buy the Wall Street Journal, where the widely respected right-of-center editorial page is offset by a left-of-center news staff.   The New York Times is lending a sympathetic ear to its ideological brethren in the Journal's newsroom.  


The July 19 New York Times gave Journal liberals a platform to defend their “culture of passion for the truth” anonymously from an “invasion by tabloid barbarians” (meaning Murdoch).  Journal writers have suffered a “wrenching time,” the Gray Lady reports, since Murdoch first offered to buy the paper in May. 

“Journalists are also facing two futures they never expected when they signed on to jobs they saw more as a mission, not a business — the uncertainty of what Mr. Murdoch would do as an owner, or the uncertainty of a suddenly harsh advertising climate that could lead to deep job cuts.”

Job losses may not be what Journal reporters are really worried about.   Murdoch, after all, has the Midas touch.  At a time when most papers have seen circulation plummet, Murdoch has nearly doubled the circulation of the New York Post since he took it over in 1976, making it the eighth largest paper in the country

The real problem appears to be ideology.  According to the Times, “'There's a real culture of passion for the truth, for shining lights in dark places and making the mysterious understood,' said a reporter, one of dozens of people interviewed at The Journal and Dow Jones, nearly all of whom asked for anonymity, fearing a backlash from the current regime or the next one. 'The overwhelming view here is that under Murdoch, that gets compromised from Day One, and that idea is devastating, heartbreaking, to people.'

“In the weeks shortly after the bid was revealed on May 1, a number of reporters publicly denounced Mr. Murdoch as someone who molded journalism to serve his business and political interests.

“'Mr. Murdoch's approach is completely at odds with that taken by your own family,' wrote Journal reporters in a scathing letter to the Bancroft family, who has owned the journal for over a century.”

Why the hostility to Murdoch?

A 2005 study by political scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles assessed the political leanings of news outlets using the same Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) system applied to politicians.  The Wall Street Journal topped the list of more than 20 outlets with an ADA ranking of 86 (36 points left of center), right between Senator Chris Dodd, D-Conn (84), and Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass (88).  Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Special Report came in at 39.7, just over 10 points right of center. The Journal rated further left than any other major news source, even NPR.

Small surprise a mere 24 percent of the public believes all or most of what they read in the paper, down from 41 percent in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center.  The Wall Street Journal's news board can at least console themselves that their credibility is roughly three times higher than that of People magazine (8 percent) and four times higher than the National Enquirer (6 percent). 

The Wall Street Journal may have a high opinion of itself, but it's had a hard time convincing scientists and readers that it really has a “culture of passion for the truth.” 

Maybe Rupert Murdoch can restore credibility to The Wall Street Journal.

David Niedrauer is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center