Murdoch acquires the WSJ

The deal is approved, the agreements signed, and Rupert Murdoch has acquired the venerated Wall Street Journal. Not surprisingly, there has been much gnashing of teeth in journalistic circles, no doubt due to Murdoch's association with the broadcasting quagmire otherwise known as Fox News. A few weeks ago, I posted on Murdoch's quest for the WSJ suggesting it may not, in fact, be the end of the world. Murdoch's media holdings include tabloids and prestige papers, and present a variety of ideological standpoints. The basic fact is that Murdoch's holdings invariably follow the money, supporting policies, politicians and ideologies that will secure maximum advantage in a given market. So, you get wildly contradictory results, such as a rabidly conservative Fox News and a pro-UK Labour Party Sun Newspaper co-habiting in the same empire. Murdoch's acquisition of the WSJ is certainly a blow against media diversity, but it does not necessarily mean the Journal will become a conservative trash-pit. Commentators are divided on what Murdoch will actually do to the WSJ.  Journalism.org reminds us that Murdoch has acquired a number of American newspapers over the years- The Village Voice, The Chicago Sun-Times, and the San Antonio Express-News, to name a few. His standard tact is to trash the paper and then sell it off, usually to leverage cash for expansion in other sectors. Based on this track record, it's reasonable to conlcude the WSJ could soon be surging towards the bottom of the journalistic pile, and will be  changing hands in fairly short order.

Conversely, Romenesko suggests Murdoch acquired the WSJ to compete with the New York Times and the Financial Times. In this version, Murdoch will agressively undercut the NYT and FT's advertising prices and invest heavily in editorial content, absorbing short-term losses to win a long-term readership war. Thus, the quality of the WSJ may actually improve under Murdoch's guidance.

I think the only thing to say for sure on the WSJ acquisition is that Murdoch is a wily businessman. His goal is to make a profit from the WSJ, either by improving its market share or turning it over (think 'Flip This House', but with a major national newspaper). All of Murdoch's holdings must make money for their master. And here lies the danger- since Murdoch owns so much media in so many places, the pervasive profit motive can only damage the diversity of viewpoints offered by his outlets. Moreover, it can spawn more journalistic wastelands like Fox News. It is unfortunate Americans have such little recourse to combat media concentration in their local and national media organizations. Whatever the WSJ becomes, citizens will just have to suck it up.

Rupert Murdoch