Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Into the darkness........

Alicia: We're not exactly the Washington Post, okay?
Michael McDougal: No, we're not. We run stupid headlines
because we think they're funny. We run maimings on the front page because we got good art. And I spend three weeks bitching about my car because it sells papers. But at least it's the truth. As far as I can remember we never ever, ever knowingly got a story wrong, until tonight.

That's the future of the once proud newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. It was announced today that the paper had whored itself been sold to Rupert Murdoch for an obscene amount of money.

Despite the fact that their editorial policy is to the right of Attila the Hun, the Wall Street Journal was a respectable newspaper that offers detail and context in its news stories and has provided insightful business news to its readers. Now that it has been sold to a fucking psychopath will it stay that way? If the experience of any of the other news outlets that Murdoch has engorged himself with is any guide, the future is not real bright.

It's not just bad journalism, it's bad business to let Murdoch take control of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal.

Truer words have not been spoken:

Be swallowed or die? The deal makers -- including Dow Jones board members and executives who stand to reap millions from the sale -- tell the Bancrofts that the economy can no longer support a relatively small, independent, serious news-gathering company. They claim that traditional reporting must be subsidized by entertainment ventures ranging from "American Idol" to the famous Page 3 girls of the U.K.'s Sun newspaper. But that model isn't business -- it's charity. It's also dead wrong.

Prior to the appearance of Murdoch on the scene, we at Dow Jones had begun an aggressive process to build new platforms, opportunities and investments to strengthen the company. Zannino himself, in an internal memorandum issued after the Dow Jones board endorsed the sale, acknowledged that this plan was "beginning to pay meaningful dividends and we have a very bright future as an independent company should the News Corp. bid not come to pass." The next day, Dow Jones reported that quarterly earnings had risen 16.2 percent.

Many of the world's most successful companies have staked their fortunes on independence instead of so-called synergy. In another industry struggling with change, car giant Daimler is trying to rescue itself from an ill-fated acquisition of Chrysler. Meanwhile, rival BMW has been promoting its independence. "No, we will not sell out to a parent company that will meddle in our affairs and ask us to subject our cars to mass market vanilla-ism," the automaker's advertising says. The fact is that even within a single industry, companies succeed because of management leadership, focus and execution of a sound strategy, not just size.

Dow Jones wasn't for sale when Murdoch appeared, and for good reason. The process of transformation that we had begun, creating new value while perpetuating our original mission, was working. Selling out now will only short-circuit that process -- and guarantee that the Murdochs, rather than the Bancrofts, reap its rewards.

It is a shame really. Because the US needs both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Guys like Murdoch want you believe that is no longer so-that independent thought, research, and opinion has a place only in the past. That the consumer market for news is so warped by TV and the Internet, that its OK to treat your readership like sheep.

Edward R. Murrow understood why this really sucks:

It may be that the present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it. Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex-it doesn't matter. The main thing is to try. The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the
mouthings about giving the public what it wants. It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests at the top. Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated. And it promises its own reward: good business and good television.

Perhaps no one will do anything about it. I have ventured to outline it against a background of criticism that may have been too harsh only because I could think of nothing better.

What he said. Stock tips from Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin? Coming to a once great paper near you.


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