Monday, December 14, 2009

Under Murdoch, tilting rightward

Rupert Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, addressing the newsroom at The Wall Street Journal two years ago, when he took over.

Not that the Wall Street Journal was a leftists rag and needed a push to the right; if anything, they were a perfect match.

Glenn R. Simpson, who left the newspaper back in March, is not a fan of the newsier, less analytical Journal.

“Murdoch didn’t ruin The Wall Street Journal; he just rendered it into a much more ordinary paper,” he said.

But there are growing indications that Mr. Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, doesn’t just want to cover politics, he wants to play them as well.

He has always played politics. Perhaps he is becoming less covert, but the change is of style, not substance.

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.

More conservative? I don't notice the change; the paper was always conservative. And subscribing to the paper does not equate to approving of its politics.

In response to questions about bias in the newspaper, a Journal spokesman sent along the following statement: “The Journal has always provided its readers with unique, objective news reporting from our Washington Bureau.”

Oy. Fair and balanced?

Tension between Washington bureaus and headquarters is a common feature of newspapers, and none of the people I spoke to suggested that either Mr. Thomson or Mr. Baker lacked savvy as journalists or leaders — only that ideology was baked into the coverage through headlines, assignments and editing in a way that had never occurred in the past.

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