About your authors
Vin Crosbie Vin Crosbie
( Profile | Archive )
Dorian Benkoil Dorian Benkoil
( Profile | Archive )
Bob Cauthorn Bob Cauthorn
( Profile | Archive )
Ben Compaine Ben Compaine
( Profile | Archive )

Dorian Benkoil senior consultant at Teeming Media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he was a foreign correspondent for AP and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for At ABC News he moved to the business side, handling sales integration and business development, before joining Fairchild Publications as General Manager for their Internet division, becoming editorial director for, then a consultant for Teeming Media in New York. He graduates this year with an MBA from Baruch's Zicklin school of business. Learn more about him at or his blog -

Robert Cauthorn is a journalist, former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was the third recipient of the Newspaper Association of America's prestigious Digital Pioneer Award. He launched one of the first five newspapers web sites in the world and is generally considered to have delivered the first profitable newspaper web site in 1995. Cauthorn has been in the middle of the transition from old media to new and is recognized as frank-talking critic when he believes newspapers stray for their mission. In mid-2004 he became the president of CityTools, LLC a new media startup based in San Francisco.

Ben Compaine has divided his career between the academic world and private business. He was a journalist when manual typewriters were considered state of the art, but also led the conversion of his college newspaper to cold type. He has started and managed weekly newspapers. His dissertation at Temple University in 1977 was about the changing technologies that were going to unsettle the landscape of the staid and low profit newspaper industry. Since then he has focused his research and consulting on examining the forces and trends at work in the information industries. Among his most well-known works (and the name of his blog) is "Who Owns the Media?".

Vin Crosbie has been called "the Practical Futurist" by Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry. Editor & Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry, devoted the Overview chapter of executive research report Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers to his work. His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005. He has keynoted the Seybold Publishing Strategies conference in 2000; co-chaired and co-moderated last year's annual Beyond the Printed Word the digital publishing conference in Vienna; and regularly speaks at most major online news media conferences. He is currently in residence as adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant on executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and meanwhile is managing partner of the media consulting firm of Digital Deliverance LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
About this blog
Two forces have shattered the news media. Technology is the first. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, for more than ten years now the news industry has mistaken new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or analog products. Estrangement is the second. The news media has lost touch with people's needs and interests during the past 30 years, as demonstrated by rapidly declining readerships of newspapers and audiences of broadcast news. How we rebuild news media appropriate to the 21st Century from the growing rubble of this industry is the subject of this group weblog.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Rebuilding Media

« George Carlin, My Hero | Main | You Can't Have it Both Ways »

July 2, 2008

Hard data confirms changes in Wall Street Journal’s news choices under Murdoch

Email This Entry

Posted by Ben Compaine

I really, really promise that I will not be stuck forever on what might be seen as a crusade about the change in the editorial mix of The Wall Street Journal since Rupert Murdoch took control. I don’t want to become the Ben-one-note on this as Lou Dobbs has become for his anti-immigration tirades.

Still, there is some news on the subject. I have written several times now about how the Journal has been devoting its front page to hot-off-the-press headlines that are essentially the same as what every other daily publishes: “Obama wins primary,” “Cyclone levels Sri Lanka.” This is a form of run-of-the-mill reporting to which the Journal brings little value added and, with earlier deadlines than most local dailies, perhaps less value.

But now comes some hard data—that’s what I like more than impressions—that does indeed confirm a substantial shift in the Journal’s editorial coverage since the change in ownership. The Project for Excellence in Journalism undertook a content analysis of the front page stories in the Journal for the four months before the December 12, 2007 date that News Corp. acquired control of Dow Jones, the parent of the WSJ and the three months following. Its finding was unambiguous:

In the first three months of Murdoch’s stewardship, the Journal’s front page has clearly shifted focus, de-emphasizing business coverage that was the franchise, while placing much more emphasis on domestic politics and devoting more attention to international issues.


The before and after change is most dramatic in several areas, as seen in PEJ’s chart I’ve cribbed here. Political news is up four fold, reflecting the intense coverage of the primaries that in the past election cycles would have received less space (if only because until recently the Journal rarely devoted more than a single front page column to any story). The full report at the Project’s Web site also compares the “new” Journal’s editorial mix with that of The New York Times, which Murdoch is keen compete with. There are still substantial differences, with the Journal devoting more of its front page to foreign topics, business and economics, less to politics.

Jack Shafer, writing at Slate’s Press Box last month, made note of the PEJ data, but chose to focus on his more generalized impression that the Journal may indeed be better under Murdoch because “it was swinging hard again in its traditional wheelhouse to produce great enterprise journalism.” He proceeds in identifying some examples, all, indeed quality reporting in which the Journal has long excelled.

This may be wishful thinking on Jack's part. I hope not. He has certainly identified some fine-- and traditional -- Journal pieces. But I'm speculating that perhaps they stand out because, as Jack notes, the primary season is over, and there had been no devastating earthquakes or cyclones for a few weeks, and the presidential campaign was in pre-convention simmer. Indeed, in the midst of these fine articles was the front page on June 4, as Obama wrapped up the Democrat's nomination. It struck me immediately as I picked up the Journal and The Boston Globe from the driveway that the Journal article was readily interchangeable with the Globe (and other dailies) articles. In my analysis, every day the Journal wastes newsprint with such headlines, photos and copy is a day lost to do the type of journalism Jack is rightly trumpeting.

I’ve mentioned before
that I have great respect for Murdoch as a savvy businessman and as a risk taker who has made real contributions to the competitive landscape of the media.. My current critique is that the hot news approach is not a strategic direction that plays on the Journal’s long time strengths. To the contrary, it takes the paper on a path that daily newspapers should be trying to leave behind.

Ok. ‘Nuff said. I’ll leave this behind. If only Lou would move on from his obsession.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media Competition | Newspapers | Strategy | media industry


1. Letchursebreme on July 15, 2008 6:25 AM writes...

I don't like spinach, and I'm glad I don't because if I liked it I'd eat it, and I just hate it.--Clarence Darrow (1857--1938), U.S. attorney

Permalink to Comment

2. typetapy on July 16, 2008 3:09 AM writes...

Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.--Terry Pratchett (1948--), British SF and fantasy author

Permalink to Comment

3. buy_vigrxplus on July 14, 2009 7:52 AM writes...

Great post! I’ll subscribe right now wth my feedreader software!

Permalink to Comment

4. Nicholle Ozminkowski on April 30, 2012 7:14 PM writes...

Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I'm thinking about setting up my own but I'm not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks

Permalink to Comment

5. savings on October 18, 2013 3:49 PM writes...

These are in fact impressive ideas in regarding blogging.
You have touched some nice points here. Any way keep up wrinting.

Permalink to Comment


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Is AT&T's new data pricing a bad sign for media's iPad dreams?
My Visit With Walter Cronkite
Another Innovator's Dilemma: Book Publishers Uncertain About E-Book Releases
Network externalities means different business model solutions for old media and new
What's the Boston Globe Worth? A newsstand copy may cost you more than the company.
Google Not Enemy, Not Friend
Journalist, Editor, Ad (Wo)Man
Newspapers shouldn't be seeking -- and don't need-- government help