Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Living with Murdoch

It's happening exactly as everyone had expected. The Rupert Murdoch reign has begun to transform the Wall Street Journal, one of the most prestigious daily newspapers in the world, into a News Corp. product.

Marcus Brauchli, the managing editor of the Journal, said he'll resign from the post, and Murdoch will install one of his people in the position. Prior to Brauchli's departure, Murdoch had already replaced the paper's publisher with Robert Thomson, former top editor of the Times.

Changes Murdoch is trying to make are rattling nerves, because he's basically trying to destroy the tradition of the paper by making it appealing to a wider range of readers. He wants shorter stories and more general news coverage, shifting away from the current heavy emphasis on smart, in-depth business and financial news coverage. By doing that, the paper may gain more readership, but it will certainly lose its prestigious status as the world's finest business paper.

Murdoch agreed to keep the Journal's editorial independence, but he's the same Murdoch, and he'll have his way regardless, as the early changes show. The question is how far he will go in breaking the paper apart.

And News Corp. won't stop there and may go far beyond that. Murdoch has just got himself a seat on the AP's board directors, and he's now trying to buy Newsday, the 10th largest paper in the U.S. in terms of circulation. A sad fact of life.

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