Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cock-a-Rupe

So Rupert Murdoch has finally won control of the Wall Street Journal, that occasional dumpster for right-wing oppo research and diligent follower-up on yesterday's market announcements. I'm not too bothered either way about it, as earlier comments might suggest.

What I've found immensely amusing during this entire affair is that the Journal's writers, as well as several normally highly capitalist commentators, have suggested that the not hugely dynamic family owners of the Journal keep control of Dow Jones as a public service. The idea being that such important market oversight cannot be entrusted to the salty Australian who owns the New York Post.

This is lazy and patronising garbage. A private company owes the market at large so such favours. There is an entire army of money managers, analysts and regulators to keep an eye on corporate America, not to mention a horde of financial journalists of varying degrees of sobriety that don't work for the Journal, even if they secretly wished they did.

But, as Jack Shafer, a writer I normally love, puts it:

Today's Wall Street Journal moves financial markets with its news accounts because readers believe—rightly—that the paper serves no master but the reader.

I've observed the effect as well. You can talk about a financing in an industry, with a banker that has worked in it for several years, and any reference to it in the Journal will colour his entire commentary. A weak anecdote, to be sure, but there's something about the Wall Street Journal that feeds the American desire for a comforting source of certainty and authority.

The idea that a business news consumer should subject him- or herself to the cacophony of voices toiling below the level of the journal leaves many readers cold. I'd hasten to suggest that anyone who does take that view probably shouldn't be playing around with other people's money, though. For the casual reader, there are a wealth of other options, many of them quite reasonable, not the least of which is Bloomberg News.

The only other interesting angle is whether Rupert Murdoch instinctively understands newspapers or not. Shafer says no, Felix Salmon says yes. I think what we can say is that he is very bad at broadly-based pay rises for journalists - he only pays highly for the most notorious ones. Which the Journal doesn't have any of, outside the Op-Ed page. Heh.

1 Comments:

At 8:13 PM, Blogger Felix said...

Murdoch doesn't like giving pay rises to journalists 'cos he reckons that journalism, as it's practiced by most of its practitioners, is actually pretty easy, and that there's never any shortage of job applicants who are just as good as the last guy. In that, I'm afraid, he's quite right. Every so often, he finds a gem, and he'll promote that person aggressively, and give them lots of money and responsibility at a very young age. It's a formula which has worked reasonably well, although it does run the risk of massive blow-ups like Hillsborough.

 

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