Protecting the Wall Street Journal: It's All About the Brand, Stupid
Now that Rupert Murdoch seems poised to take ownership of the company which controls the Wall Street Journal, there is just one thing that stands between the global media mogul's business interests and the Journal's reputation for editorial independence.
It's the brand, stupid.
That's because Murdoch's $5-billion offer for Dow Jones includes buying the heftiest name in financial journalism. And the wily mogul knows the world will be watching to see if he turns the Journal into a shill for his business interests.
I know some have predicted much worse for the Journal, and I don't blame them. Murdoch has a long history of manipulating the content of even his most prestigious outlets to serve his fiscal imperatives.
But despite some efforts made by the family which controls Dow Jones stock to preserve the journal's independence, the fact is, Murdoch's respect for the newspaper's brand is the only thing which may keep him from messing with the journalism too overtly. I wouldn't place bets on seeing any more aggressive Journal reporting from China, but that may the smallest price to pay for a deal with a media devil necessitated because the newspaper never lived up to its potential.
Here's some other reaction:
From Free Press president and media scholar Robert McChesney:
"Media consolidation has replaced investigative journalism with infotainment, foreign affairs reporting with fluff, and local coverage with cookie-cutter content. Contrary to industry spin, emerging Internet outlets fail to offset consolidation's affect on journalism. Now Murdoch will control a broadcast network, a cable news channel and a national newspaper -- three of the small handful of outlets that set our national news agenda.
"Rupert Murdoch -- who has never hesitated to use his pulpit to advance his own ideological and business interests -- won't change his ways. But we can change the policies that allow companies like News Corp. to dominate our media.
"We can only hope the culmination of this deal is the wake-up call Washington needs to start rolling back media consolidation. The first step is to pass new "cross-ownership" laws that would prevent the owner of a national television network from owning a national daily newspaper.
From Rich Hanley, assistant professor of journalism and director of graduate programs in Quinnipiac University's School of Communications:
"Murdoch's purchase holds both great promise and peril for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. The promise rests in dragging the company kicking and screaming into the 21st century with a multiple platform approach to gathering and distributing business and financial news, information and analysis. The peril lies in the potential for a descent from traditional
journalistic values into sloganeering and similar elements that are not
uncommon to News Corp. properties. But Murdoch understands that the value
of business news relies entirely on the integrity of the information presented
and that any undue influence on coverage will be self-defeating."